The Power of Prayer

Monks at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Monks at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

When visiting the sites of the world, the “must-dos”, the places that capture the culture and passion of the people, I find myself in many temples, mosques, and cathedrals. Although the religions are different, the places of worship, prayer, and meditation have much in common. There is the reverence for tradition, the quiet, respectful attitude, and the art. I find it fascinating that these symbols of faith and community present a dichotomy of engaging the many, often poor, while the opulence they display conveys a wealth not always shared with the followers.

I’ve walked through the cool quiet cathedrals of Europe amazed at the masterful art that adorns the walls. I’ve stood absorbing the oils, still vibrant after hundreds of years, the characters caught in mid-step in the glories or anguishes of life. This is how the masters sold and displayed their craft, focusing on religious themes to ornament the churches.

Duomo, Milan, Italy

Duomo, Milan, Italy

I’ve visited mosques in Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, and Abu Dhabi, wandering through with the crowds, a scarf respectfully covering my hair, absorbed in discovering the beauty of colorful tiles, carved wood, and ornate marbled flowers growing along the floor and up the walls. The meticulous detail speaks of craftsmanship and dedication.

Sheik Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Sheik Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

And there are the temples of Buddhist Asia, the insides displaying scenic depictions of old stories passed down through the generations, somewhat faded but still illuminating stories of men and women and the struggles of their lives, a common theme in religious focused art. The silent Buddhas stand, sit, or recline, their guarded smiles revealing little.

Pindaya Cave of Buddhas, Myanmar

Pindaya Cave of Buddhas, Myanmar

I often reflect on one common theme across all of these religions – the role of women is never equal to the men. And in that detail, I continue to cautiously observe hoping that one day women and men will be equal in how they live and how they worship.

For more travel information, check my site:

Copyright 2016 ©; photos cannot be reproduced without permission



When the Earth Moves

It’s been just over a year since an earthquake shook the mountains and valleys of Nepal on April 25, 2015. I have great sympathy for the victims, having been to Nepal twice and knowing that resources are limited even in the best of times. After the earthquake, the scarcity of clean water, food, and health care was compounded by a lack of shelter as villages crumbled and the lucky escaped with their lives.


Annapurna, Nepal

Nepal stuns with the beauty of the Himalayas, stretching from Annapurna to the Everest region. I’ve hiked both areas and most “roads” are narrow rocky paths crisscrossing the region, peopled with locals, travelers, and donkeys laden with cases of food (and beer!). I realized how isolated the people were as we walked through forests stopping at the scattered tea-houses for masala tea and momos, the Nepalese answer to the dumpling. People were kind and welcoming. I’m sure the few dollars we spent on our meals were a significant source of income.

Porters Nepal

Porters in Nepal

Fall is the trekking season and some of our porters had left their farms after the harvest for the more lucrative tourism-supported pay they could enjoy in October and November. And we were just as happy to have them help carry our gear as we trekked on the back of the Himalayas, enjoying the autumn sun during the arid and warm days, wrapping ourselves in our sleeping bags at night, braced against the mountain cold.

When I hear of disasters in another country, it doesn’t feel distant to me when I’ve been there. I think of the people I met and worry for their safety during the event and I worry for their recovery. Location makes all the difference, as a similar event in the U.S. would not have near the same effects.

Tengboche Monastery

Tengboche, Nepal

I was in Japan when the earthquake hit on Friday afternoon, March 11, 2011. I was on a bus on the way to the airport with another colleague after a week of business in Tokyo. I was glad to be leaving as we’d already had some disturbing small earthquakes that week and I felt it was time to be going home before something more serious happened. But our timing was off. When we arrived at the airport, flights were shut down and we spent the night in the airport until flights could restart the following day. I was in a heated building on a relatively cold wet day, with access to restrooms, and some access to food and water through the various vending machines in the airport. The ever organized Japanese handed out sleeping bags. We stood patiently in line, took our bags and staked out a spot for the night. The workers who were stuck at the airport, closed their shops and prepared a place to sleep on the floor. All relatively calm and I’m sure, nothing like the mayhem in Nepal. Of course, we were nowhere near the tsunami zone. But I’ll admit that the constant aftershocks that night while tucked into my airport sleeping bag were unsettling. The cold hard tile floor was not the most comfortable bed but I felt lucky in comparison despite the feeling that I needed to sleep with one foot out of the bag, ready to run for the first exit if the aftershocks turned into an actual quake.


Kamakura Buddha, Japan

Japan has just had more earthquakes and one shook Ecuador in the last month. Natural events become natural disasters for many reasons. Countries scramble to help and the global response eases the burden but the cycle continues and each time we think that things will be better next time. Like many others, I do what I can, contributing money to various agencies. I also spend time in countries, volunteering my time for other projects with the intent to empower the people and propel them to better lives.  And I hope that the men and women I met while volunteering and hiking in Nepal, working in Japan, and traveling in Ecuador are safe and healthy along with their families.

For more travel information, check my website:

©; photos cannot be reproduced without permission


Africa Pride

Version 2

Storm over Etosha National Park, Namibia

Some of my favorite journeys have been the safaris of Africa. Experiencing animals in the wild is mesmerizing and connecting even within the confines of a sturdy vehicle, windows down and the roof open to invite the sun and provide unrestricted views for photos. Smelling the brush of the Masai Mara, feeling the pressing heat of the Serengeti, looking across the dusty plains of Amboseli, and being dwarfed by the immense expanse of sky in Etosha, all while touring the homes of my hosts – the lions, elephants, impala, zebras and wildebeest.

Version 2

Zebras, Namibia

But nothing seems to draw looks of amazement on the faces of the spectators as easily as the lions. I’ve watched lionesses stalk prey carefully focused on a remote chance far in the distant. I’ve seen the power plays between the jackals, hyenas, and lions as they feed upon the scattered body parts of some unlucky zebra. Hierarchy favors the lions while the others wait restlessly off to the sides eyeing an opening and a chance to grab a bite.

Version 2

Hyena, Namibia

And I’ve seen the ultimate play for survival – the shaggy maned king of beasts bid for the lioness’ affection until turned away with a swat and a growl.

Version 2

Lion, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Their impervious attitude towards the humans in the mobile dining carts is a bit unsettling as they seem to ignore us but I know that one dangling limb can easily disappear to whet their feline appetites.

It’s best to stay inside the protective coating, although it’s not uncommon to see some idiot step outside their car, oblivious to the risk. But let’s admit it – it might make for an interesting YouTube video if they don’t make it back to the car in time. Survival of the fittest. Be smart or be dinner.

For more information on travel, check my website:


Swimming Over the Sharks

Kicker Rock

Kicker Rock, Galapagos Islands

I took a workshop at my old job focused on change and resiliency.  At the time, the corporation was bending itself into unnatural contortions that left a lot of employees very uncomfortable, to say the least.  I think that some people felt the changes demanded gymnastics, both mentally and physically, that were a bit of a stretch. Hence, the corporate answer – shove people into a workshop for a few hours and they will emerge complacent and subdued.

As part of this workshop, we were asked to create a phrase that would characterize what this change meant to us and how we should think about handling it.  I had recently returned from a Galapagos Islands vacation and one of the most surreal experiences I had there was a snorkeling afternoon that included swimming along an iconic natural wonder known as Kicker Rock. 

I’m a very confident swimmer with the caveat that my confidence is strong as long as I’m not trying to out-swim something with a protein based diet that might include humans.  So when our guide, Tomas, enticed us with the promise of seeing some sharks, I wasn’t really sure about strapping on my mask and dropping my appetizer sized body into the water.  My skeptical look only drew a laugh from him.  “Don’t worry, they won’t bother us.”  Okay.  Sometimes you just have to trust the guide and ASS-U-ME that he knows what he’s talking about.  Or in legal terms, would any company really set up their customers for a death defying experience?  I wouldn’t even consider the fact that not everything always goes as planned. 

Our small group of five dropped into the water and followed Tomas as we neared the arch of Kicker Rock.  “LOOK, LOOK, LOOK!!!  SHARKS!!”  I was the only one close enough to Tomas to see where he was pointing.  I looked down below, way below, and saw several hammerhead sharks swimming loosely in a circle.  And it was mesmerizing.     They seemed to have no knowledge of the entrees swimming above them.

I popped my head out of the water, almost too excited for words, “Oh my God!  Oh my God!  That is so COOL!!” followed by a quieter question so as not to attract their attention “They won’t swim up here, right?”  As much as I read about animals and the natural world, the habits of hammerhead sharks was not my specialty.

“No, no.  They stay down deep until dusk.  And THEN they come to the surface.  We will be long gone by then.”  Tomas’s quiet confidence was the assurance we needed.

Now I could truly enjoy the experience.  I was swimming over the sharks!!  And as dangerous as it seemed, I was safe.

This was the image that crept into my head on how to handle the resiliency challenge – swimming over the sharks.  As bad as things seemed in the work environment, I thought the best way to think about it was as an observer just watching the action below.  I needed to keep swimming, focused on confidently making progress, remembering that I could stay safe by not stressing about what was below me — possibly an unrealized threat. 

As we were asked to share our phrases with the group, the woman next to me, a blossoming traveler herself, endorsed my comment.  “What a great visual!” 

This is one of the treasures of travel.  The experiences I have in the world seem to insinuate themselves into my “real” life.  We all build stories.  Some are true but many are fiction and the viewpoint I build when I’m wandering the world influences my stories, eliminating distortion or bending the light to a positive reality.  So the next time you feel like you’re drowning, surrounded by some hungry and aggressive fish, keep swimming confidently forward.  Just remember to get out of the water before dusk.

For more travel adventures, check out my site:

Eat. Eat. Eat.


Scorpions on a stick, Night Market, Beijing


Where will I eat? A frequent question for travelers that can create as many good memories as bad if not approached carefully…

I remember my first trip overseas to Europe — the first stop was in Madrid, Spain. My friend and I ventured out to eat lunch on the first day, having no idea where to go, and settled on a small café that didn’t seem any different from any other place. As we settled in to eat our soup, after picking through the menu and relying on my small amount of French to somewhat connect the dots in Spanish, we were quickly repulsed by the assortment of unknown bits and pieces in the bowl. Which included a hair. And then another. We decided we were done with the lunch before we had started, paid our bill, and made a quick exit.
Suddenly the thought of using the guide-book didn’t seem like a sad compromise and the adventure of eating was tamed. For our next meal, we carefully consulted our books, noted a specific address and found a more welcoming meal. That is the point of guide books – recommendations saving us time and money.
Of course, the sophistication continually increased over the years and now I can get recommendations down to the minute via my smart phone. It’s good and bad since it takes away the opportunity to find your own little treasure but minimizes experiences with “hair soup.”
I like consulting with the locals on their favorites and, when spending more time in a place, trying my own luck. I don’t always trust Yelp and Trip Advisor because I seem to have a more discriminating palate than the type of people who have to continually post their minute to minute gastric trials and tribulations. Why do I need to see ratings for coffee shops and gelato?
I’ve been lucky to enjoy cheap, authentically delicious dumplings in a street side “shack” in Beijing, the perfect coordination of dough and filling, not soggy, and precisely firm enough to delicately take your bite. Chased with a cold beer, dinner was finalized for about $1.50.  There is the famous street food in Thailand, that is only a hesitation for the first meal, and then you’re in – slurping up the spicy noodle soups with strips of chicken or pork, decorated with cilantro or basil and adorned with even more peppers for an authentic “Thai spicy” delight. And why not try the delicate escargot of France? It becomes an eating exercise in the mastering of a small metal implement designed to carefully hold the shell while you pluck the buttery garlic-infused innards with a small fork.
And if you want to explore the roots of our sushi fascination while in Japan, you can’t miss the experience of the motorized sushi conveyor belt, teasing you with various offerings of raw fish relaxing on rice. Indulge in the fatty tuna – you’ll wonder how you ever suffered through the substance that passes for tuna in America.
I’ve also encountered the curious breakfast of Argentina, consisting of various breads that I found terribly disappointing and lacking in any merit worth mentioning. Sorry, I’m not a bread person. No worries, I found redemption in the tender lamb, lean juicy steaks, and wonderfully fresh seafood (the wonderful trout lasagna dish after 10 hours of hiking!) as I travelled the length of the country.

The one thing, no, TWO things I really miss when I travel? Popcorn – I’m a bona fide addict (thank God it’s fairly common, especially in South America), and a fresh salad. After traveling for several months in southeast Asia, I eventually have to abandon street food for a few days and just eat somewhere where I’m sure the raw vegetables have been properly bathed. What an extravagance to crunch on romaine decked out with juicy tomatoes and cucumber!
The best piece of advice I can give is to travel with an open mind and open palate. It would be a shame to miss the delicacies and delights of other countries and cultures. There are meals that linger in my memory – a lamb dish served with a yogurt almond sauce in Jordan; a crab delicacy at a small French influenced restaurant in Cambodia, forever stamping the fusion of the two cultures as a very promising pairing for future dining.

It is one of my favorite adventures in travel – revealing and ultimately, fulfilling.

For more travel adventures, check my website:

New Eyes. New York.


Been there, done that. But not really. “That” is a word of enormous proportions when talking about New York City as it unravels and reveals with every visit.

In early March, warmth invaded the East Coast prompting premature ejaculations of “Spring is here!” sung by the unwary and optimistic.  What better place to spend a weekend meant for exploration?

I started 2016 with New Year’s Eve in NYC accompanied by some friends from Australia, returned in February to guide a friend from Dallas, and then spent a “birthday” weekend in March with another friend.  You can’t get enough of New York – so many visits over so many years mixing the new and old, searching its secrets and sharing the time worn classics.

How can I summarize three New York weekends in a “New York Minute”?

M train, L train, A-B-C and 1-2-3 train, The Standard, Papaya King, Jewish bakery, boutiques, the Armoury, Brooklyn coffee shop, Robert, fatty tuna sushi rolls, Columbus Circle, Central Park, Bendels, Bergdorfs, $9 beers, Broadway “Beautiful”, Lincoln Center, Figaro’s wedding, Rockettes, Times Square, 30 Rock, St. Patricks Cathedral, 5th Avenue, Uptown, Downtown, Midtown, Harlem, East Village, Williamsburg, Grand Central Terminal, Penn Station,Greyhound, Port Authority, NJ Transit.

When can I go back???? 😉

For more adventures, check out my website:


Travel with Kindness

Bangkok Buddha


As an avid traveler, one thing I see that could be corrected with a little effort from every individual is the tendency to react quickly and sometimes vehemently in situations that make them uncomfortable. Uncomfortable is a gentle word – it can be any situation where a person feels vulnerable, unprepared, angry, threatened, or even jealous. I’m not talking about life-threatening episodes where reactions can be warranted but the daily encounters that drive us to react and regret.

When I’m traveling there are constant circumstances for misunderstandings. I don’t speak the language, the people I’m interacting with have limited English, and cultural differences aren’t even understood. That makes for some tricky maneuvers when things don’t go as planned. One example: taking a taxi in another country. Something this easy can become a nightmare if you find yourself driving around, not recognizing anything, and not able to actually talk to the driver. Prepare yourself.

When recently on a trip to Thailand, my friend and I tried to take a taxi and ended up nowhere close to where we wanted to go. We thought it was a very direct route, according to our map, but it was stifling hot and my friend was at a bit overheated, jet-lagged, and just wanted a quick way back to the hotel. But most drivers in Bangkok don’t speak English and if you know anything about many Asian cultures, you also know that they are quick to say yes to anything, even when they don’t understand. We found ourselves far from our destination as we tried to follow the route against the map we had in our hands. Our taxi was headed north when we wanted to go east.

Enter Plan B. Plan B was to have him drop us at the Sky Train stop and take the train to the hotel. When we went to pay, my friend was adamant that she wasn’t paying for all the extra mileage when we didn’t end up at our original destination. But how to explain that to the driver? First, I had to calm her down and tell her it wasn’t the driver’s fault – he tried to take us where he thought we wanted to go. Fortunately, I had a SIM card in my iPhone and was able to pull up Google Translate and explain to our driver that we wanted to pay a little less because of the confusion with the destination. He read the message and quickly nodded in agreement. Problem solved!!

My point is that these things happen a lot. I see other travelers get very upset with the locals because things didn’t go as planned. Why do they get so angry? Remember that most people are doing the best they can in the instant. Yes, there are the dishonest types in all countries that try to take advantage of travelers but 99.9% are good people trying to make a living. Give them the benefit of the doubt, keep calm, and try to resolve the issue. With a smile. Wouldn’t you want someone to do the same for you?

For more information on how to use your Smart phone when traveling:

And for more travel information, check my website,



Version 2It’s March 1 and it’s Independence Movement Day (anniversary of a day in 1919 to declare the nation’s independence from Japan) in Korea. And it’s cold. Not just “I need gloves and a warm sweater” in addition to my coat cold, it’s “bring your scarf, and hat, and fluffy-knee-length-down-coat” cold. My guide tells me it is the coldest winter in 10 years in Korea. And this is the day I picked to spend almost three hours walking outside through Changdeokgung Palace and the Bukchon area. Since this is a national holiday many people have the day off but unlike the unwise foreigners, they seem to be spending their day inside.

I toured the Palace with a guide and five other cold defying souls, then I stepped over to the Secret Garden with another group of tourists all determined to make the most out of a visit to Seoul. As we progressed through the park, I envisioned more enticing days filled with green leaves and bright flowers, but on this day, even the small pool was crunchy ice and uninviting. One brilliant addition to the palace grounds were the small groups of young women visiting in their bright red, blue, and purple Hanbok, the traditional Korean clothing. They floated from building to building, capturing everyone’s attention.

The sun briefly broke through the scant clouds illuminating the old buildings, sending slight but promising tidings of warmer days. Even the cold could not take away the beauty of this retreat for kings and queens. As I wandered through the complex, stopping to absorb the painted details on the buildings including the five mountains and the sun and moon as a background to the king’s throne, I could imagine the day when even these deserted buildings held warmth and life.

On to Bukchon to view traditional Korean homes. At this point I had to stop and fortify my chilled body with warmth. The ubiquitous Starbuck’s beckoned with promises of a menu supplemented with English. I stepped inside, my first retreat from the cold in almost three hours. My body quickly accepted the new climate as I sipped a sugary and frothy green tea concoction. I began to feel human again and braced myself for a last half hour wander through the area, hating to miss any opportunity to snap a few final pictures before taking the subway back to my hotel. Bukchon rewarded me with weathered wooden doors adorned with rosette studs, framed by simple stone walls, and overseen by traditional tile roofs. I had stepped back to another time and place in Seoul. Exit to the subway – the modern day people mover.

Fortunately, I had these few hours to spend admiring Korean history and culture. That’s not always the case when traveling on business. I feel a need to connect with the places I visit, especially when doing business, so I can appreciate my hosts a little better. The following day when we broke our meeting for a delicious Korean lunch of bulgogi beef (one of my favorites), our business colleagues were amazed to hear I had visited their UNESCO site. They already refer to me as “a little Korean” because of my love for all things spicy, but I added another dimension by showing that I was interested in their history.

I’ll admit I seek out opportunities to work and visit in Asia. I find the culture to mirror more of my own ways of wanting to engage with people, a kinder, gentler way of doing business. Maybe it is easier to be this way when the culture is so homogenous and everyone can understand the subtext when engaging with each other. Over half of all South Koreans live in the Seoul area and of the approximately 25 million people in that area, 90% are Korean. In America, we often have to be more outright and bold, since a mixed heritage means specific cultural subtleties can be ignored or missed in communication.   There is a time and a place when we have to be more direct, even in Asia, but for a few days, I’ll just appreciate this gentler way of doing business while enjoying my bibimbap, bulgogi, and haejangguk (hangover soup).



The Context of Travel

Bali Temple

Bali Temple

The world divides into two hemispheres.  The places I’ve visited and the places I plan to visit.  I’m oblivious to political lines drawn by arrogant governments with rivers and woods and people belonging to one place or another as if any of these things can be owned.  I’m not oblivious to the lines drawn by culture that allow women in one place to vote and wear visibly long hair while these freedoms are denied in other places.  I just prefer to ignore any lines that keep me from engaging with the people and reconfirming that most are good and caring on the inside even when it is buried under the circumstances of place.

I don’t have a “bucket list” of must see places.  That would only complicate a simple desire to see everything.  There is a wonder with seeing every new place – rich turquoise waters off the coast of Thailand or Turkey, the snow reflecting the sun atop Fitz Roy or the mountains of the Himalayas, even the frantic lights and activity of midtown New York City, Paris, or Shinjuko in Tokyo.  If you’re lucky, you can keep that feeling of wonder for the second, third, or fourth time you experience a place because every day is different and being blind to that realization is to be blind to life.  I’m sure it is just as difficult for a homebody to understand my need to explore as it is difficult for me to understand the need to be constant.