Pioneers of Cultural Travel

Travel is something that is embedded in the cells, the blood, the DNA. Pioneers of cultural travel did not begin with a golden wand guiding them to unknown places. They took risks, walked through walls of fear, and took the unbeaten path to places that many would be afraid to traverse. One such pioneer of cultural travel is Jim Calio. The Huffington post has a great article about this travel pioneer.

JC: What were your goals when you started out in Africa?
GK I made a decision early on that our safaris would be about appreciating the wildlife and the scenery in the most luxurious way possible and came up with the slogan “shoot with a camera, not a gun” and we stuck with that. Early on I got an old army buddy of mine, who was a brilliant engineer, to develop a refrigerated truck so we could have ice in the bush for the gin and tonic. It was the first time this had been done and it worked brilliantly.

JC: What was the first trip you organized when you started the company?
GK: One of my first trips ever was with Jane Chapin from Adventures Unlimited. She was the exclusive travel agent for A&K. She had somehow heard of me and, when she came to Nairobi, I took her on a safari. I picked up Jane at the old Stanley Hotel and took her into Nairobi National Park. Then, in 1966, I took her off on a longer adventure. I was the guide, and we had a mobile tented camp — with ice and electric lights. She had such a wonderful time that soon she and I were operating 10 safaris a month.


Pioneers of cultural travel exist throughout history in the form of naturalists, theosophists, anthropologists, artists, dancers, and curious people. Jim Calio is one example of a person who has combined passion with an entrepreneurial spirit to create a lifetime of crafting trips for people around the world. What about you? Are you a pioneer, or a curious seeker? Read the whole article here.



Folk Art and Cultural Travel to China

Folk art is a great reason to plan travel to China. Why? Because China has a long history of the silk road, where silk and fabulous textiles were transported from place to place, and the cultivation of silk was one of China’s most valued treasures. Pingliang, one of the silk route’s places of trade is a part of the 9th China Folk Art Festival. The famous silk route spans roughly 4000 miles, and existed as trade routes between China, India, southeast Asia, Turkey, Persia, Africa, and Europe. The silk road began around 206BCE and expanded between the 5th and 8th centuries. Silk was not the only commodity traded along the silk route. Spices, teas, functional items produced by craftsmen, and religious beliefs were also ignited during the time of the silk route.

Silk Route- photo by Mayhaymate

The 9th China Folk Art Festival will be held in Pingliang, Gansu province from September 12 to September 15, according to a press briefing in Beijing on Sunday. The theme of the festival is “Beautiful Kongtong Mountain. The festival aims to combine the Chinese folk art exhibition and tourism promotion of Pingliang, located on the Silk Road.

If you’re going, do some research on Folk Art of China, and the fascinating history of the silk route. Folk art and cultural travel to China is a world that is interesting and wonderful. You will be drawn into a time and place that is reflective of ancient people long ago, and how they learned about the rest of the world through trading silk and other objects of art. Read the full article here.



The Culture of Mermaids

We all know the mythical, and sometimes strange story of mermaids. But what if the culture of mermaids is a real phenomenon? Recently, I discovered a video on utube that is really interesting. Personally, I have never thought about travel through the ocean, but what if there are species of mermaids that live in the ocean? Perhaps you should look at this yourself, and ask yourself if you believe in the culture of mermaids.


So what do you think? Do you think Mermaids are real? Do you believe that there is a culture of mermaids in the sea? There are many other cultures in the sea, why not Mermaids?


Tom Cruise in Iceland

Famous people and travel are interesting to those of us who adhere to holding movie stars, and musicians in  high regard. I often wonder where certain people are in the world, as famous people are known for being all over the world. Take Tom Cruise for example. Right now he is in Iceland. I can assure you, he didn’t get there by flying coach. What is Tom Cruise doing in Iceland? Just ask the Reykjvik grapevine.

Actor and noted Scientologist Tom Cruise is currently in Iceland for the filming of Oblivion, taking place in the northeast of the country.

Vísir reports that Cruise is staying at the Hótel Hilton in Reykjavík. He will remain in Reykjavík for a few days before moving his residence to Hrafnabjörg in Vaðlaheiði, near Akureyri, for the summer.

Tom Cruise-CC Commons-photo by Alan Light 1989

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman 1989- Photo by Alan Light CCCommons


I like to imagine Tom Cruise traveling all over the world in his jet. Personally, I find imagining Tom Cruise in Iceland far more appealing than the tabloid’s parade of his personal life. I loved the “Fourth of July” a movie that he shined ever so brightly. Best wishes to you Tom Cruise on your 50th birthday in Iceland. Read the whole article here.


Famous People and Travel

It is interesting to hear how famous people see the world. Famous people and travel is a subject that is relatively unknown to most, but hey, they’re human beings just like us.  Many famous people get to see a vast part of the world, but I imagine it is only a glimpse, as they are in and out of places in a very short period of time. To hear how famous people perceive the world comes through snippets on the news, or magazines, and blips on the web. But what about the life behind role that famous people have to endure? What cultural perceptions do they carry back home? Take Tony Hadley for example. Hadley is an English pop singer and songwriter. Recently, the “Independent” had an article about Hadley’s life in travel.

Ideal travel companion?

Ali and my children. I’ve got five now; the eldest is 28 and the youngest is five months. They’re all beautiful and brilliant. I couldn’t think of a more perfect holiday than being with them. We go skiing every year to Morzine in France and stay at a B&B right on the slopes. I love it. If I hadn’t become a musician, I would have been a skier.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I do like the cultural aspects, but I’ve also been on several big treks with Action Medical Research. One was to Costa Rica – from the Pacific coast, through the jungle, to the Caribbean, where we endured torrential rainfall and got lost. We also went to Peru and to Venezuela, which turned out to be a bit dangerous because I almost fell off of a cliff. Luckily, someone caught me.

Martin Fry and Tony Hadley-

Martin Fry and Tony Hadley-Photo by Phil Guest


You don’t have to be famous to enjoy the cultural wonders of the world. It helps to have the funds to travel, but you can create a trip anywhere by creating the possibility in your mind, and taking action to go. There are still ways to travel on a shoestring. Ask me, I’ve been out on a thin thread to some of the far reaching places on the planet. The key is taking action. Just do it. You don’t have to be famous. Live now, go places. Read the whole article here.


The Sound of Music in Malaysia

Malaysia is one of the world’s best kept secrets in the way of food, place, and how about a world music festival to top it off? Cultural travel to Malaysia is a trip that can enliven the senses. Each year, in a place called Sarawak, a world music festival takes place. Where is Sarawak? It is in Borneo. Take a look at these musicians at the Rainforest World Music Festival.

Lan E Tuyang performed by the Sape Masters: (l-r) Mathew Ngau Jau, Asang Lawai, and Tegit Usat at the 2011 Rainforest World Music Festival


It is not only their music and instruments that are inspiring, their textiles and garments are enough to make me want to get on a plane. Borneo here I come. Here is another video of musicians from Borneo.


And lastly, the most clear sound of sape orang ulu. I love the sound of these instruments.!



Cultural Travel Shock

Cultural travel shock is an experience that occurs when we travel to a different culture and find ourselves in stark juxtaposition  to the beliefs, ideas, language and economic differences with another culture.  Opening oneself to experiencing culture from the inside out means allowing and opening to the differences, smells, tastes, and traditons of a culture, and suspending the “frame” around what we think and know about culture. Dealing with cultural travel shock means walking through walls of fear, and being uncertain withing the context of the culture that you are visiting. There are many places where cultural travel shock is more acute. These places are usually places where the culture is still somewhat intact. Places in the South Pacific, certain islands of Indonesia, and numerous other places in the world, have cultural story and traditions still in place. There is a certain protocol that is important to remember while in another culture.

Here’s what the travel dudes say about cultural travel shock:

To start, one thing that you can do is to change some of your perceptions and think of culture shock as the first step towards learning about other cultures.

Remember that in every culture some things may be right and valid while in your own culture they might not. Remember that each culture is shaped in response to peculiar environmental challenges that differ from society to society and from country to country. So if people dress or eat differently it is because it helps them to adjust best to their local environment. If you have this understanding you will be less likely to feel offended and disturbed by local customs.

Research on a culture’s beliefs and traditions can also go a long way in understanding cultural differences. As an example, women in Malaysia wear sarongs and long skirts, and it is way out of context to wear short shorts, or skirts that are really short. As a visitor to another culture, it is really disrespectful to stand out like a sore thumb.  It is better to do the necessary research, and find out in advance what customs and beliefs a culture embraces, so that you can gain cultural awareness and immerse yourself fully in the experience of embedding yourself within a culture. Cultural travel shock has much less impact on you when you do your homework before getting on a plane, or ship to travel to the other side of the globe. Cultural sensitivity is an attribute we could all foster, and it makes us better citizens of the world. Read the whole article on how to deal with cultural shock here.

Continue reading


Cultural Travel with An Escort to Burma

I’m not the type to want an escort anywhere, especially on a trip, but having things planned out for places that are otherwise inaccessible seems pretty appealing when you consider all of the time and planning required to go to unknown places. Cultural travel with an escort to Burma may qualify for a trip that I wouldn’t mind having an escort. In fact, in places such as Bhutan, the government requires that you have an escort to move you throughout the country. You are also required to spend a minimum of $200.00 per day while in Bhutan. What a wise way to keep the masses from ruining your country. Burma is a country  that has just opened the pearly gates again to tourists, and is probably one of those places that you might want to have an escort with you.

You might ask, what is there to see in Burma? A blurb in the Telegraph talks about Burma’s highlights here:

After years of anticipation and frustration, lovers of south-east Asia are now able to visit the region’s least explored – and arguably most magical – country. Rural Burma is a scenic backdrop for stops including the Pindaya caves, the ancient temples and pagodas of Pagan, historic hill stations and a cruise on the Irrawaddy River. Inle Lake, the colonial architecture of Yangon (Rangoon) and the northern city of Mandalay are further highlights of a tour with Voyages Jules Verne.

  • Voyages Jules Verne 0845 166 7003; offers the 14-night Discover Burma tour, departing on August 13 and September 10. From £2,495pp, including return flight.

Burma has some of the world’s best exemplars of neolithic artwork in caves. The neolithic culture of Padah Lin caves is indicative of one such site. Below you see the neolithic images from the Padah cave.

cultural travel to Burma

Neolithic paintings at the Padah Lin Cave Burma

 Photo from wikipedia-uploaded by Dimitri Lytov

There are numerous other wonders in Burma that any human being would find interesting and fascinating. For one, the temples are extraordinary, and cultural travel with an escort to Burma can provide an enlightened twist to a traveler’s experience of all of the dimensions of Burma. The people there are interesting and while there has been considerable unrest, the rich traditions and beliefs of the culture there is worth the time and effort it takes to get there. There are 135 distinct ethnic groups, and 4 different languages spoken there. Below is an image of a little girl from Padaung.

Burma child from Padaung

Burma child from Padaung-wikipedia commons Dimitt


Burma is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. Bordered by Thailand, India, China, Burma has a unique tie to ancient human beings, with a history that goes back 750,000 years! The neolithic paintings above, date back 13,000 years. It is easy to see how cultural travel to Burma offers a unique view into a culture that is knitted to ancient people of long ago. Burma is a country that one should fully explore in the way of research, before traveling there. Cultural travel to Burma with an escort would be a wonderful way to see places that would otherwise be difficult to access. If you’re going, you might want to check out the full article in the telegraph here.  Check out Lonely Planet’s guide to Burma. You’ll be glad you did!


Tibet Travel on Your List?

Let’s face it, life is brief, and if there is a place that you would like to travel to in the world, you need to make a commitment to travel. Let me ask you, is Tibet Travel on your list? If not, you might want to learn more. I the late 1980′s I traveled to Nepal, and it was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. Outside of the airplane window, I saw the most magnificent mountains in the world. Mt. Everest, and the Himalayas were so surreal.

Mt. Everest- Photo source: e


Tibet Travel Coop (TTC) now offers three kinds of Tibet tour. Depending on their interest, travelers can choose spiritual journeys, cultural odysseys, or adventure trekking. Itineraries can be tailor-made to suit individual requests.

“These journeys reveal historical and cultural places,” TTC said. “They include short hikes to stunning nomadic hillsides, connect the traveler with the hearts and minds of rural Tibetans, and the homestay trips in the Minyak region stay off the popular tourist paths.”

If you are interested in traveling to Tibet, be prepared to  have your life change. Seeing the Himalayas from an airplane, or by foot, can change your life forever. The sheer magnificence of these grand mountains will take your breath away. If you have considered going to Tibet, take action, and make your plans to go in 2012. The ability to understand things often comes from the rich experience of wonder. Tibet travel on your list? If not, perhaps you should explore Tibet today. Go here to learn more about Tibet.

Cultural Travel and Unknown Places

For many years, I worked along side Hmong sisters who helped me to sew soft sculptures out of silk fabric. While I have never traveled to Laos, I can say that it is on my bucket list of places to go to. One of the destinations for travelers to Laos are the caves that still hold the mystery of time and history. Lonely planet has a great video on the caves of Laos. Tony Wheeler gives a great account of the caves of Laos on Lonely Planet’s site:

Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler heads up the Mekong from Luang Prabang, Laos, to explore the Pak Ou Caves, a Buddhist shrine.


chom ong cave laos

Chom Ong Cave in Laos-photo by Torben Bjerring Redder

Cultural travel to unknown places can be really exciting whether you discover them on your journey, or seek them out in advance of going. You must go to the Washington Post’s travel destinations off the beaten path visual, pictorial show of places around the world that are off the beaten path. If images can speak, these photos can make you pull out your credit card to explore relatively unknown places. So go here to see these amazing photos of places around the world. Perhaps I will see you in one of them! Go here to see the photos.





My Favorite Books