"Travel isn't about seeing, it's about being." John195123's Profile

Welcome to BetaVer.2 and thank you for your visit.

Some call it an epic journey. It didn't feel like it at the time, but we just returned from a trip, 3 months from Harbin, China through China, Central Asia, Russia and Northwestern Europe. From Lhasa to London we traveled overland, while Harbin to Lhasa was mixed transport, though usually ground. Anyway, new pages are coming soon, but with almost 10,000 images it will take a while. Not that anyone is chomping at the bit to see my new pages, but anyway... ;)

In this stage I will be adding links and other navigational aids throughout the pages.

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SEE THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE!
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So now I'm finished, and after some contractual negotiations (I negotiated based on fact and agreed-upon points in the contract, while they did little more in their arguments than argue unrelated and insignificant points, put words in my mouth, then tried to tell me that they were my friends) based on contract violations on their part, I'm angered and annoyed, not so much for their decision, but for the lack of honor they have for a written and legally binding agreement. They know I'm leaving and haven't the time to go to court. Then they didn't even have it in them to tell me a decision to my face. Chalk it up to saving face, but they lose a heck of a lot more face this way. If ever you decide you want to work in China, contact me beforehand so we can discuss the contract and the realities of what contracts do and don't mean to people. Let me just say that a contract is a legally binding agreement, and that, if you have any honor, you must adhere to it strictly, or the idea of a contract becomes meaningless, as indeed it has here. I can't wait to get traveling, get out of here...

Ni hao wode xuesheng! Wo shi nimende laoshi, John.
Hello my students! This is your teacher, John.
Click on the Link John195123's Travel Pages to see where I've been!

A few biggish updates, Turkey and China (China from the latest trip around the country. We are going to Beijing, Shaolin, Xi'An, Kunming, Lhasa, Dunhuang, Turpan, Kuqa and Kashgar before heading into the Stans. Those Chinese cities and that trip will be up in a few months, I hope, when we get back.)

The eyes of the world

A rough landing jolts you awake. Sickeningly humid air distills in your lungs as you step off the plane, onto a tarmac that hasn't seen a cold winter.
The perspiration builds as you anticipate the air conditioning you'd have in your airport back home. But you aren't back home. A sweat breaks. Everyone else seems comfortable. You, now sweating, just hope they, whose language you don't speak, don't think lesser of you. You're finally through. But, to add to the heat, a batallion of hungry taxi drivers greet you, your luggage is pulled by those offering to carry it for you... you smile, because, aside from the fact that you don't know what they are saying, you have no idea where you are going. Your smile lingers- you're traveling.

Travel inspires inspiration itself, for if inspiration never traveled, it would never feel inspired. Within these pages, explore the world with me, a born traveler, and enjoy the insights and experiences I have to offer. Please feel free to email me any questions you might have. A lot of pages make you feel good. I believe that as travelers we have a responsibility for sustainable travel- so the idea of "one world" doesn't make the world bland and uniform.

Travel Philosophy

Travel is not about one "unified" people. It is a celebration, if you will, or a simple appreciation, even, of our differences. We don't travel thousands of miles just to see our own culture, we travel to see and learn about other cultures, other peoples, to be inundated with other languages and cuisines. If you travel and eat the same fast foods you eat at home, you aren't traveling.

"No voyage of self-discovery is complete without exploration of the world around you." -John195123

Espuma John Morris 2004

Spray at the rocky point of Paya Bay in Roatan.

As each surge of surf leaves its mark upon the sandy or rocky shore, we travelers leave our mark. A good traveler, like a good camper or hiker, does whatever possible to leave as small a mark as possible on the shores and minds of distant lands.

In short, tours and cruises are the most destructive to the delicate resource that is travel. They offer a glimpse at an artificially created culture that is the same from place to place- "I don't care who you are, I just want your tourist dollars," in exchange for, "I don't care who you are, I just want your picture and some trinket to prove I've been here."

A farmer from a long line of agrarians becomes a vendor. More people move to the city to capitalize on the buses of tourists jamming the sights. They hawk, you haggle. But who wins? Your souvenirs aren't real items, but are stamped out at factories that make souvenirs. And they make their livings in this way, and this is what so many people who claim they travel when they take a tour know of a place- souvenir vendors and tourist traps.

Do I realize this? Yes. Have I bought my fair share of souvenirs? Yes. But the more I travel, the more I realize that the souvenirs are no substitute for real experience- for connecting with locals instead of just going through the same routine... "How much for this?" "Good price for you!"

I've never been a proponent of cruises and tours. In fact, many who know me find me to be a zealous, vehement opponent of them. My teaching in China leaves its mark- so I can't say I'm immune. But in teaching, I hope to leave them not with the oft-destructive mark of American mass media, but with a sense of appreciation for the real culture behind myself and behind many people, a culture they don't get by watching TV.

Look for a book or an article coming out some time soon about this subject!

Sunset John Morris 2004

Roatan: Mi isla. Roatan is representative of the travel industry around the world. It was, just a few years ago, a Caribbean place known only by a few. There were no major jets flying in, no cruise ships docking... Not so today. And that is the nature of any place worth visiting, sadly. The tourists need places to stay, so hotels spring up, then restaurants and souvenir shops... soon a place like Roatan becomes like Grand Cayman, with nary a sight of empty beach. What once was a local island becomes a tourist hotspot. Then cruises come in and neat little towns like Coxen Hole become souvenir shops. The culture is lost as everyone there works for tourism. Sure, it's easier to get there. You can fly from Houston or Miami instead of taking a boat from the mainland. But it is not and never again will be the place it once was. Sure, they make more money, or they'd stick to subsistence farming.

And this is and has been the nature of travel, from the time of the first explorers- and not just the famous Europeans. Any explorer begins to hack out a trail for others to follow, and follow they do. But for tourists, very often little is sacred. Tourists travel to see the "quaint" worlds and villages of others. They often want the mediated glimpse of what a people are supposed to be like. Travelers travel to be in a place, to be with the people, to taste the dirt, feel the cold of the rain. Don't be a tourist.

When the "off the beaten path" information hits the guidebooks, it's no longer off the beaten path.

Well, guess what? Supposedly the powers that be in South Africa decided in July 2006 that they want to pave the road up Sani Pass between South Africa and Lesotho. If you want to enjoy the off-road-esque ride, you better do so right now, before it's lost. Why did they do this? In part to help the area economically, and in part for tourism... so more people can get up there. Once again the beauty and exoticism of an area is to be spoiled.

dzni John Morris 2004

Just because dzni did it, I'm doing it too. This is Kansas, though...

It's a lonely road? Not any more. With travel made so easy, so cheap, relatively speaking, everyone has the ability to travel. That is a great and wonderful thing! But those who do travel must also realize that they have some responsibility in leaving a place as close to the way it was when they arrived as they can... let me rephrase that... as close to the way it used to be. That's not possible anymore? Maybe not. But what we can do as travelers is to minimize our footprint- don't take the tours. Don't go on cruises... get there yourself. Learn some of the language so they don't have to learn yours... this is especially true in places that aren't quite as globalized as America or China. Put down the book, look around. Be a traveler.

On the road John Morris 2004

I do apologize for the atrocious lack of compositional quality in this shot. Kansas again.

How many tourists have I seen, with scared and exasperated expressions on their faces, desperately hoping for some sign that their open guidebook or unfolded map is apparently not giving them? Too many. Don't be afraid to get lost! Take the sidestreets! Wander on a whim! Don't stick to the paved trail! (ahem... unless you're in a national park- obey all posted rules and regulations... ) There's so much more worth seeing that isn't on the tourist route, so much more to the world than what's in the guidebooks.

And that is, in part, why VT is such a great place, with even the smallest details made into tips... not just the tourist sites, but cultural tips, local advice... it's a great place.

Leaf John Morris 2004

I didn't write this to insult anyone, and as I said, I'm guilty of it too. Minimal impact in travel is simply something we all need to consider. Some forms of travel are much more destructive than others. Aside from that, who likes crowds of loud tourists? We can't escape that, always, but we can do our part to minimize it.

If I did insult you, I apologize in advance. But take this for what it is- my travel philosophy.

Many Leaves

As I mentioned above, I am living in Harbin, China right now. I'm trying to build it up to the standard of the pages from other places I've lived, but it's taking time since I'm building it as I go, not after the fact.
The places I've lived, so far:

Louisville, Kentucky
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Monterrey, Mexico
Harbin, China

It's difficult, having started photography with slide film, to get images from places I've been in the past. Many I'll try to get back to to reshoot, but they won't be the same places as I remember from my youth. Oh well. Hopefully I'll get to Beijing, Xian, Guilin and some other places in the south of China fairly soon, but I don't have any digital images from those places yet. Keep checking back!

Want to learn photography?

Got a camera? Don't know how to use it? I am offering some courses or tips on photography (for free of course) to VT members who are interested in learning more about photography. Please email me if you are interested! I've posted information on it in the Miscellaneous and Technical Forums, so let me know if you want to join in!

If you are looking for video lessons, I'll try to post them as I travel, but I ran out of time! This is ok, though, as it will give me more time to provide a more comprehensive set of lessons. Anyway, I'll let you know when they're up!

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Welcome! As of June 23, we have only this week and then we'll be finished teaching in China. I can't say I'm sorry to go- systemic cheating not being the worst of the facts about Chinese students. Anyway, for those who care, we depart July 29 after a year of teaching here, and will be most likely without much internet for the next few months as we'll be off traveling through China, leaving Harbin for Beijing, Shaolin, Xi'An (again) Kunming (again) Lijiang (again), Lhasa and the Xinjiang Province, then leaving China for Central Asia -Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, then up to Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia and finally through Europe's Scandinavia to visit a friend in England. All of this is overland, which is nice, but I know it's going to be hot and really tiring. It's the long way home. Anyway, I look forward to not teaching any more, though if I could get good students... I'll write a bit about living in China on my China page. But I want a bit of distance from the experience to be able to approach it with more thought. Anyway, if you have questions about anything, email me.
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  • Intro Updated Oct 12, 2008
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John195123

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