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Otters! Otters! Otters!
Published on November 25, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my trip to the Wild Center in the Adirondacks.

Here's an excerpt:

"Over the weekend I visited the Wild Center in Tupper Lake with some friends.

'What exactly is the Wild Center?' one of my friends inquired, shortly before the trip.

I was stumped. The question made me realize that I only knew one thing about the Wild Center: It has otters. And, really, what else do you need? Otters are fantastic little animals; if I could come back as an animal in my next life, I might choose to be an otter. They swim and play pretty much all the time, and are capable of building slides in the snow and mud. And they’re cute! Even so, sensible people might wonder: Are otters worth a three-hour drive?

Yes, I think so. Although I should probably mention that the Wild Center would be a pretty cool place if it didn’t have otters. A natural history museum that opened in 2006, the Wild Center features compelling and interactive exhibits, live animals and cool programs. Plus, it occupies a beautiful building that showcases its beautiful Adirondack setting. Upon arrival, my friends and I picked up the day’s schedule to find out when Otter Enrichment — which involves feeding or engaging the otters in a stimulating activity — would occur. We were sure this would be the highlight of our trip, and we did not want to miss it."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Help My Friend Jennifer Become Chief World Explorer
Published on September 12, 2013 by Sara Foss

You may remember my high school friend Jennifer Johnston sharing a three-party travel essay about her adventures in Nepal and Bhutan last summer. (Click here for part one, here for part two and here for part three.)

Jennifer recently made that photo essay into a one minute video hoping to earn the "Best Job Around the World" for a travel website. See the video and vote for her to be the next Chief World Explorer to do voluntourism around the globe. You can vote once every 24 hours until Sept. 15th.

Click here for the link.

Here's to following our dreams in 2014! Good luck Jennifer.


Going Caving
Published on March 28, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about going caving.

Here's an excerpt:

"I recently visited Howe Caverns, the popular Schoharie County cave, for the first time. I feel a little embarrassed to admit this — I’ve lived in the Capital Region for over a decade, but had never visited one of the area’s big attractions. And I’m not one of those people who is afraid of caves. I like caves. I think they’re fun!

For some, the appeal of caves is hard to fathom. Caves are dark and frequently occupied by bats; they often require visitors to navigate tight spaces and put aside their fear of the unknown. However, caves can be beautiful as well as fun: They contain stalactites and stalagmites, interesting rock formations and cool features such as streams and crystals. Going into a cave offers a glimpse into a hidden world, and provides a certain thrill — it can be exciting to follow a guide down a darkened path, through winding passages, deeper and deeper into the earth.

My cave experience is not extensive. I’ve been to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, Lewis and Clarke Caverns in Montana, Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota and the Secret Caverns, located down the road from Howe Caverns. Mammoth Cave is pretty impressive. Wikipedia informs me that it is the longest known cave system in the world, with some impressive features — giant vertical shafts, rivers populated by blind fish, glittering gypsum crystals. Lewis and Clarke isn’t quite as amazing, but its beautiful formations are very much worth seeing. What makes Wind Cave interesting is its boxwork — a honeycomb-like calcite formation that projects from a cave’s walls and ceilings."

Click here to read the whole thing.


When Your GPS Leads You Astray
Published on January 15, 2013 by Sara Foss

My parents got me a GPS for Christmas, which made me really mad. I've never wanted a GPS, and I distrust technology. But I've since warmed up to the idea. I get lost from time to time, and a GPS would probably make my life easier.

However, a recent news report about a woman who drove 900 miles in the wrong direction due to a GPS error suggests that maybe I was on to something. This story has a great lede, too: "Put too much faith in technology and you may wind up in Croatia." The horror! Anyway, there's a lesson here: Pay attention, and look at a map every once in a while.


Oh the Himalaya!: Part III
Published on August 30, 2012 by guest author: Jennifer Johnston

Jennifer Johnston recently returned from vacationing in Nepal and Bhutan. For Part I of her experiences, click here, and for Part II, click here.

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My favorite spot in Kathmandu was the large stupa at Boudhanath. (See above). Hindus regularly go there to walk around it three times, give offerings, pray and spin the prayer wheels. They generally pray for others, not themselves. It was uplifting to be there under the bright blue sky. I felt light and surrounded by positive energy.

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Oh the Himalaya!: Part II
Published on August 29, 2012 by guest author: Jennifer Johnston

Jennifer Johnston recently returned from vacationing in Nepal and Bhutan. For Part I of her experiences, click here, and for Part III, click here.

After our trek through the Everest region, I went on a five day tour of Bhutan, the Buddhist kingdom that measures its success in Gross National Happiness (intead of GDP). I have wanted to see this peaceful country since I learned about it in high school. The king is well loved, and places an emphasis on environmental sustainability, a strong economy and preserving culture. Tourism is limited to protect the agrarian society, and I had my own guide and driver to take me to ancient monasteries and through the countryside.

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Oh the Himalaya!: Part I
Published on August 28, 2012 by guest author: Jennifer Johnston

I made my first trip to Asia in July.

I flew with a friend to visit her husband who is living in Kathmandu. (They are from Maine, in their mid-thirties and wanted to live abroad; she splits her time between Nepal and the U.S.) It had been five years since my last international vacation, and I was ready to leave behind my laptop, iPhone and the stress of long work weeks to see the world. I couldn't pass up the chance to visit the religious sites and cultures I had read about in college, or to experience life in Nepal for a few weeks.

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What an experience to land in Kathmandu! There are 5.5 million people living in the city. I saw my life flash before my eyes as we weaved through traffic along dirt roads, hearing constant honking, as our taxi made its way through chaos. I swore a lot those first couple of days. And then I got used to it. It's amazing how adaptable humans can be. It made me realize how much I take for granted the luxuries available in the U.S.

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Arts in Hudson
Published on July 23, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about some of the fun things I've done in Hudson, N.Y., in recent weeks.

Here's an excerpt:

'I’ve made several trips to the Columbia County city of Hudson in recent weeks and here’s what I can report: Hudson is a cool little city, with an interesting arts community, nifty new venues and some impressive industrial architecture. I haven’t been there during the day, but there appears to be a thriving gallery and antique scene, if you’re into that sort of thing. The drive from my apartment in Albany to downtown Hudson is about 50 minutes and I wouldn’t make it for just anything, but the city keeps hosting events that seem worthwhile. If this keeps up, I’ll be going there all the time.

On Friday, I traveled to Helsinki Hudson, a restaurant/club that is the new home of Club Helsinki, the Great Barrington club that closed its doors in 2009. The two venues have similar vibes, although Helsinki Hudson is larger and perhaps a little more elegant — less roadhouse than nightclub. Like its predecessor, Helsinki Hudson offers a small, intimate atmosphere, great sound and an eclectic schedule. I caught the Americana/folk duo Brown Bird there, and they were pretty impressive, playing an array of instruments (cello, violin, guitar, bass drum, etc.) and producing a surprisingly full and complex sound. David Lamb’s deep, rich baritone reminded me a bit of the Capital Region’s own Sean Rowe, and blended well with MorganEve Swain’s clear, melodious voice."

Click here to read more.


Ordinary Places
Published on May 6, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my recent trip to Auburn, N.Y., and how I generally like most places - even places generally regarded as boring.

Here's an excerpt:

"Last weekend I went to visit friends in Auburn, a trip I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time.

Auburn is about 40 minutes outside of Syracuse, which is where my friends used to live. I always have a good time when I visit them, which has given me fond memories of both Auburn and Syracuse. I mean, who can forget their first trip to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que?

But when I mentioned my Auburn trip to a friend, he looked at me with pity.

'I’m sorry,' he said.

'Don’t be sorry,' I said. 'I like Auburn.'

My friend is from Syracuse, so it’s not like he’s sneering down his nose at a region of the state he’s never set foot in, which is the sort of thing that drives me crazy. He’s sneering down his nose at his hometown, and he has every right to do that. But his hometown really isn’t that bad, in my opinion.

Of course, I might be a bit unusual in that I tend to like most of the places I go."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Southern Stereotypes
Published on April 4, 2012 by Sara Foss

I lived in the South for just three years, and I fell in love with the region. I'm happy here in the North, but there are a lot of things I really miss about the South, and I certainly wish i could visit more often. I have a lot of great friends from the South, and I think the region has a lot to offer. Perhaps that's why I bristle when people make sweeping, negative statements about Southerners.

Anyway, this piece on Alternet takes on Southern stereotypes, and is worth a read.


Walking the High Line
Published on March 8, 2012 by Sara Foss

Last weekend I had the chance to walk the High Ligh - a cool, relatively new park built on an elevated railway platform in Manhattan- and I wrote about this experience over at the DG. Here's an excerpt:

"I enjoy exploring unusual spaces and I support repurposing blighted properties for public use, and the High Line struck me as a unique and interesting project. Plus, it’s about two stories high, and offers aerial views of the city and the Hudson River. I’ve always liked surveying my surroundings from up above, and the High Line seemed like it would provide a nice break from New York’s relentless grid system and endless stream of busy pedestrians.

I first read about the High Line in a 2001 New Yorker story by Adam Gopnik. The park didn’t open until 2006, and Gopnik does an excellent job of evoking the pre-park wildness of the West Side Line. 'For the moment, the High Line has gone not to wrack and ruin but to seed: weeds and grasses and even small trees sprout from the track bed,' he writes. 'There are irises and lamb’s ears and thistle-tufted onion grass, white-flowering bushes and pink-budded trees and grape hyacinths, and strange New York weeds that shoot straight up with horizontal arms, as though electrified. A single, improbable Christmas tree can be found there, and a flock of warblers have made themselves a home, too. In one sheltered stretch between two tall buildings is a stand of hardwood trees. The High Line combines the appeal of those fantasies in which New York has returned to the wild with an almost Zen quality of measured, peaceful distance.'"

Click here to read the whole thing.


Volcano-Boarding in Nicaragua
Published on February 16, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the Morning News, Christopher R. Graham writes about one of the more insane things I've ever heard of anyone doing: slide down an active volcano on a piece of sheet metal at 55 mph.

Here's an excerpt:

"An hour outside of Léon, in Nicaragua, stands the volcano called Cerro Negro, the most active in the country. Most recent eruption: 1999. Cerro Negro is a polygenetic cinder cone, which means black ash and cinders from past eruptions accumulate up and around the central crater; it grows like an anthill, basically. Prevailing winds are east to west, towards the nearby Pacific coast, making the western slope steep and smooth-ish, where the smallest rocks and most of the ash eventually blow and settle.

In 2002, French cyclist Eric Barone came to Cerro Negro to break the land speed record. The volcano’s 720 meters high; the western slope is 35 degrees near the top, increasing to 41 degrees about halfway down. My trigonometry was always weak but never covered how to measure a convex hypotenuse; let’s say a straight-line distance of one kilometer.

Barone broke the record by traveling 107 miles per hour. Imagine blinking—and at the same time traveling from one end of a football field to the other. I’ve never even been that fast in a car.

Shortly after passing the radar gun, the forks on Barone’s custom bike snapped and he ended up 100 meters past his wrecked frame. During the three-month hospitalization, someone else came to Cerro Negro and broke his record."

I can be a bit of an adrenaline junkie, but I can tell you right now that I will never, ever try volcano-boarding.

Click here to read Graham's piece.


One Road Out
Published on February 12, 2012 by guest author: Keith Ross

It was twelve years ago, sitting at a bar on the limited seacoast of New Hampshire after work, having a few relaxing beers, that the conversation first started. “You know why I love this place....” slurred one of the locals, who’d been drinking since my shift began about nine hours prior.

“Seabrook?” I question, looking over my shoulder at the eerie sphere of the nuclear power plant, which the servers told the tourists was a observatory. This part of the seacoast had speakers all over the telephone poles to make the locals feel safe that when the meltdown happened, cause they seem to always eventually happen, that they would have plenty of notice to evacuate. What these naive locals didn’t know is that the speakers didn’t work. They were for comfort, like diet shakes. It made you think you were doing something positive, but nothing changed. Seabrook, and all the surrounding
communities, were full of bridges, which will close when the meltdown happens. We lived in the kill zone. But, hell, it made for an excellent sunset, over the harbor, viewed from the docks, or the bar, behind the plant.

“No, the bar.”  He sneers. Shoots the girlie shot that the bartender, my girlfriend, had "invented" that evening. “It reminds me of Key West ...”

That is when the seed was set. Three months later I landed in a land that I did not know. The joke is that I did not even know it was on the map. The best it was explained to me is that it was off the coast of Florida. No one mentioned it was in the Caribbean. Granted, I believe that the actual geographic location of the sea is south of Cuba, but the soul of the island definitely lies in the sea of pirates. So when people ask me why I moved from the Canadian border to Key West, there really is no reason. In all honesty it just seemed a good idea at the time. I like to tell the people the road ended. No one ever asks why I stayed.

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Holiday in Singapore
Published on January 17, 2012 by guest author: Kristina Ingvarsson
Living in Guam provides easy access to exciting and, for me, exotic places in Asia.
Over Christmas and New Year's I made my way to Singapore to visit friends and see the city, which is also a country. Singapore is the opposite of Guam - it is buzzing with people, shopping, food and culture from all different corners of the world. 
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Why You Should Go To Guam
Published on November 27, 2011 by guest author: Kristina Ingvarsson
Back in August my company reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in an assignment in Guam, the island territory of the United States located in the western Pacific Ocean.
My first thought was, "No way, I can't move to a island smaller than Oahu, Hawaii, and further away from mainland." To be fair, I decided to do some research, and less than two months later I found myself relocated to Guam. 
My first impression of the island was Tumon Bay, which at first felt like an washed up version of Waikiki in Honolulu. Along the bay you can find all the major hotel resorts with water activities, shopping of famous brands, restaurants, bars and clubs and even a sling shot for the brave ones. The water is warm and crystal clear with tons of sea life under the surface to explore via snorkeling or diving. The bay is shallow and protected by a reef so no larger predator can enter.
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I'm not a fan of tourist attractions and therefore I couldn't wait to see what laid outside of Tumon Bay. A coworker and his friends are weekend hikers and two of the places we visited are worth mentioning. 
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