My buddy Tony and I couldn’t have been more different: I was a long-haired, arty music business major with tattoos and earrings, he was a soft-spoken, short-haired, seemingly conservative science major. We connected at the pizza place where we worked, bonding over our mutual love of music– jazz, funk, reggae and hip-hop in particular– often trading CDs that inspired us.
With him on bass and me on vocals, we eventually formed a band together and began working our way up in the Atlanta music scene. I was a marketing intern for a major record label at the time, and used my connections to garner some interest from industry A&R reps for our edgy, alternative rock-rap sound. (This was 1992, when such things were not yet considered passé.)
But fate threw a curveball right in the face of my rock star aspirations: Upon graduating from Georgia State University, Tony signed with the Peace Corps and shipped off to teach fish farming in the central African nation of Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the world. I quit playing music, embarking on a career as a music journalist instead.
Tony and I kept in touch regularly over the next five years, as his Peace Corps projects moved him from Burundi to Gabon, and later Zambia, with only brief journeys to visit home in between. Every month I’d send him a package filled with new music, magazines and letters from home, and he’d send back music, photos and letters about his life in Africa. Our friendship gradually grew deeper, and I fell in love with the continent through his stories.
Tony was the first person I ever knew who went on an African safari. The stories he brought home from his trip to Kenya & Tanzania (which included incredible photos and National Geographic-worthy video of a lion on top of a floating hippo carcass defending his prize from hostile crocodiles) left me delighted for him and determined to see Africa for myself. And his Peace Corps experience ultimately inspired me to pursue my own crazy dreams…
The first time we traveled to the Galapagos Islands five years ago, I felt as wide-eyed and full of wonder as Jack Skellington when he discovered Christmas (What’s this? What’s THIS?!?! La la la la la la).
Animals with no fear of humans? Four to five different species hanging out together peacefully on a five-foot square rock?! Sea lions that swim up to you when you’re snorkeling, enticing you to play?!? What IS this magical nature-lover’s utopia?!?!?
Returning to the islands on an 8-day, 30-passenger small-ship cruise with International Expeditions a few weeks ago, I was no less impressed with the astounding natural beauty this remote Ecuadorian archipelago has to offer. But because I knew what to expect this time around, I found myself more focused on each memorable moment my daughter and I shared.
Here are seven important life lessons I learned from the Galapagos Islands:
It’s incredible the difference a few years can make in your life and career. And sometimes we only recognize the “pivotal moments” years after the fact.
Back in 2011, GGT was approaching its one-year blogiversary. Mary and I were focused on our freelance work and building our improv comedy company, running the blog in our spare time. We knew exactly what we wanted to do with the site, but had no idea HOW to do it.
One day we got an email from one of our PR contacts: “Ecoventura is pleased to invite you on its press-designated cruise through the Galapagos Islands October 2-9, 2011.” That email changed everything for us, and that trip to the Galapagos started the snowball that led us to where we are now.
It wasn’t until our second day in Belize, just before we were supposed to leave for a tour of Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, that I finally shed tears over the death of my father.
I was stunned on December 27, when my mother called to tell me the news that he’d passed away during the night after a long, gradual decline in health. I was numb at the memorial service a week later, when I reunited with family members I’d cut off all contact with over two years ago. I was distracted by our #JustOneRhino fundraiser and deadlines, too busy and exhausted to allow myself time to deal with the roiling cauldron of emotions buried deep inside me. Continue reading
In conjunction with leading our Branding for Bloggers workshop at TBEX Costa Brava, Mary and I were asked to speak about the importance of journalism skills and research in establishing yourself as an expert.
It’s a topic we’re extremely passionate about, not only because it’s the driving force behind Green Global Travel and Green Travel Media, but also because it’s how I’ve supported my family for the last 20 years. Even now, Mary and I freelance for outlets like Yahoo Travel and dozens of airline, hotel and lifestyle magazines, which provides good income and great benefits for our sites.
We were paired with Natalie Holmes of Context Travel, which offers small-group, in-depth walking tours in 30 destinations across the world. Like us, Natalie has an extensive background in the travel industry and journalism, and she’s responsible for product development, marketing and storytelling at Context.
Together, the three of us co-wrote this 45-minute session, which was billed by TBEX as “Think Like An Expert: Using Research to Stand Out From The Crowd.” We’ve edited the presentation slightly, to read more like a story told in one voice…