"Travel With Your Hopes, Not Your Fears--" atufft's Profile
I don't like being crowded with other Americans for package tours. I like finding places on my own. When my wife and I decided to spend winter break in Central America, for example, I studied maps and travel literature looking for a backdoor route into Guatemala, but the best maps were poor and so we arrived in the region with mostly hunches. I'm a reader, but where maps suggest a possibility, I'd rather gamble on hospitality in the host region than on the safe choices made by professionals. Needless to say, we have at times faced some real challenges, but after having visited some 19 countries, my wife and I still don't fear improvising out of a difficult situation. Indiana Jones has nothing on us. Unlike him, we take public transportation most of the time.
My 1/2 acre urban water front property in Stockton constantly needs attention, so even the chance to stroll or bicycle the historic district of any American town is pure joy. I love the heart of big American cities, and these I know well (Top 5 honors are designated by an *):
San Francisco * (my Bagdad by the Bay page remains a most authoritative work by a 4th generation Californian)
New Orleans (former VT Top 5 page for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina damage and social trauma)
Los Angeles and Long Beach
Honolulu ( Urban Life in Hawaii page remains undervalued--check it out)
San Antonio ( City of the Alamo and Riverwalk is rated and worth it)
Stockton (by default, non-Top 5 hometown destination deserves more love than it gets)
El Paso *
Jackson, Mississippi *
I am an About.com "Expert" for California and the California Wine Country. There are many great places beyond the VT Top 5 destinations, believe me!
Carmel By The Sea
Pebble Beach *
Palm Desert *
Santa Cruz, CA *
San Juan Bautista
Morro Bay *
Lagunda Beach *
My wife burned out visiting ruin after ruin, but I couldn't get enough. Each fragmented monument is a new dynasty in Egyptian life. I see in these how people live, present and past, making my world complex. Surveying the evidence of classic life, whether it be at Thebes, Palmyra, or Angkor Wat, becomes something like a CSI feature in my mind. Aristocratic and peasant lives, now vanished, play out human roles among the scattered debris of stone and art so amazing I wish my town craftsmen chiseled more to decorate my daily life.
My Favorite Major Places for Archeological Pleasures (again, not by order of preference, * denotes VT Top 5 status)
Angkor Wat/Angkor Thum, Cambodia
Busra, Syria (non-Top 5 designated)
Yaxchilan, Mexico (non-Top 5 designated)
Fatehpur Sikri, India
These are interesting places where locals continue to live, maintain, or build their monuments the old fashioned way:
Larabanga, Ghana (non-Top 5 designated)
Osian, India (non-Top 5 designated)
Vrindavan, India (non-Top 5 designated)
Syria is an easy rival to Egypt for antiquities, and the Syrian cities are safe even at night. Overall, we find that storms, civil disturbances, and misperception create opportunity to avoid tourist crowds, while West Africa, Big Easy Lower Ninth Ward, Guatemala Highlands, Cambodia, and Syria all provided us off the beaten path adventures which are truely worth remembering. We are not deliberate misery followers, however, as want our visit will be appreciated by locals living there.
I am indebted to VT readers for my top 5 pages, but many of my best pages go unnoticed. I am the sole contributer for the following VT Travel Guides. Please let me know if you want to go:
Banfora, Burkina Faso (A beautiful lake and waterfalls with hippos)
Gaoua, Burkina Faso (Lobi Tribal Region)
Winneba, Ghana (A charming fishing village on the Atlantic with locally made boats)
Osian,, India (great Jain temple town)
Huehuetenango, Guatemala (quiet regional capital of the north Mayan highlands)
Sayaxche, Guatemala (well almost, my friend Oliver has now posted great photos and tips for this frontier town on the Rio Passion)
Uspantan, Guatemala (Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu's hometown)
Niihau, Hawaii (The forbidden island of the Hawaiian chain)
Caicara de Orinoco, Venezuela (great upriver town with a fantastic restaurant with live music!)
Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela (Largest River Port on Orinoco with a huge waterfall within a city park!)
Puerto Cabello, Venezuela (Venezuela's main seaport on the Caribbean with a quaint colonial neighborhood)
Cabruta, Venezuela (Ferry port town opposite Caicara, wonderful sunsets on the river!)
El Sombrero, Venezuela (Llanero town with excellent beef steaks and authentic llanero ambiance)
Quibor, Venezuela (Very interesting indigenous artist pueblo)
Maturin, Venezuela (Estado Monagas capital)
Sinamaica, Venezuela (Amazing pueblo built over the Sinamaica Lagoon)
After teaching for 15 years as an English and ESL teacher at the high school and community college level, I decided it was time to drive a truck across America. This change from the intellectual rigors of teaching to the gritty hard work of the teamster alternately shocked and delighted many family and friends alike. New to the big rig, I still have a lot to learn about long haul delivery as well as about my own nation, which is very vast and diverse indeed! My current travel then, financed as it is by the trucking company, concentrates on massive discovery of the great urban centers and small towns, particularly those having historical character beyond the ubiquitous corporate McDonald's, Applebee's, or Starbuck's. Hauling a 53' refrigerated trailer requires logistical ingenuity, especially within urban streetscapes, and so I have doubled my planning with the help of GPS related electronics and other means to facility safe parking and escape from the truck. Some towns recently discovered have already taken TOP 5 status, but many more were nearly or completely undiscovered by previous VT travelers at the time of my contribution:
Canal Fulton, OH
Natchitoches, LA *
Green River, WY
Gallup, NM *
Grand Junction, CO *
Flagstaff, AZ *
Haines City, FL
Ashland, OR *
Fort Rock, OR
Crow Agency, MT
Fort Bridger, WY
The political and social problems of Venezuela mask an otherwise great tourism nation. I've traveled up the Orinoco, into the Andes, along the Caribbeann coastline, and into Lago Maricaibo. Sinimaica looks today much as it did when Columbus sailed into the area.
These are all separate experiences. The relatively undisturbed rainforests forests in Venezuela, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Ghana, and Cambodia and the second growth forests of Louisiana, India, Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest all provide unique ecological contrasts to the challenges of saving the cathedrals of Sequoia forests in my native California.
Similarly, the beaches of the Costa Brava, Island of the Gulf of Thailand and of Hawaii, Costa Rica's Pacific and Atlantic coasts, Venezuela's tropical and desert Caribbean coastlines, Mexico's long Pacific Coast, and West Africa's Gold Coast have all provided a huge variety of natural beauty in seascapes that rival the challenges of saving the more familiar coastlines at Mendocino, Santa Cruz, Pebble Beach and North San Diego. Those who conceptualize the value of these natural resources from a far do little to save them, but it's also true that tourism needs to be contained at many of these places for them to survive.
We prefer third-world experiences, given that more civilized travel can be done when we are retired and physically beat. But, occasionally, we make a stop over in Europe. Barcelona is a favorite place because my wife's heritage is mostly Catalan.
Her father was a veteran and refugee from the Spanish Civil War, who along with her mother, escaped on the last convoy from south France, prior to World War II intrigues in Viche France. My family emigrated from County Armaugh, Northern Ireland, where the Tufft family house and property are still in production.
Thus, for the moment, saving isolated languages and culture is a top priority for this ESL teacher, but I stay aware of my own cultural background with the help of my family. While I encourage my students to build skills in the planet's most used business language, I also encourage restoration and development of native language skills. Afterall, I know firsthand that learning a second language is a real pain in the backside.
Arriving on the scene ignorant of the basics is a fool's trip in my opinon. Besides thorough browsing of VT tips, taking along the Lonely Planet and other guidebooks with those Bible thin pages is the way to go. I'm a college teacher and I can't recommend more highly the skill of READING. Unfortunately, even colleagues, if motivated to leave town, are too lazy to do their homework, and more than willing to pay a travel agent to do the preparation work for them. But, much travel planning can't be purchased or spoon fed. I dive into reading months before I buy my airline tickets.
In the internet age, VT is indispensible for assessing current conditions. Arrival at the capitol city or other major urban departure point prompts me to find friends who live there to help me navigate the urban pavement for a few days, as I climatize to the region. I examine maps and try to determine in part by geography what must be the places most interesting to visit beyond the urban centers. Complex coastlines, island chains, mountain regions, and natural forests suggest possibility for complex cultural development. Afterall, sometimes even locals don't know where to go, or have only a dim idea of the great natural wonders found in their region. We've come across this situation many times both at home and abroad.
Just as the diversities of geography in Europe and California contribute to complexity in social and historical development, so too in other parts of the world. At the same time, analysis of land routes across vast open expanses or along rivers, such as are found in Texas, West Africa, India and the Middle East are carefully researched so as not to miss the tangible qualities of hardworking lifestyles clinging to existence there.
I have many friends on VT, and I have met these in person:
Ewingjr98 (Lunched in Monterey. He has carefully written and sometimes witty observations for Seoul, Prague, Vietnam, and many cities in the USA)
alza (toured her through SF and Yosemite)
I'm always open to visiting with other members who contact me, assuming I can find the time to do so.
I figure that you can find the top ranked VT members on your own, so I recommend the following members of rank lower than myself, people who are also mostly on my friends list but whose contributions are not reflected in their overall VT ranking:
CarolinaEspada Caracas, Los Roques, and Canaima, Venezuela.
Karnubawax Best Local San Francisco advice other than my own, of course.
ger4444 Bulgaria-overall- and Madrid
Alpha_Ghana Great coverage of many parts of Africa
Bavavia Solid solo woman traveler of Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and Israel
Vulindlela Bonaire mostly, but a great reader and editor of my pages, and of many others
leonik Excellent coverage of many remote places in Asia and Africa
calcaf38 Outstanding contributions for China, Guatemala, Pennsylvania, and recently Ecuador.
kayleigh06 One of VT's youngest travel members, with a great page for Birmingham and solid tips for parts of the eastern Mediterranean
lemondrop Venerable traveler throughout Latin America and Southeast Asia
Jonathan_C Longtime VT member has witty writing for parts of France and the United States
KimberlyAnne Outstanding pages for national parks and other features of the western USA
Maggies Good coverage of native Poland, and for Spain, Greece, Argentina, and parts of the USA.)
stappm Pleasantly written pages Southeast Asia, Middle East, and many other places
MM212 Excellent text and photo coverage of Middle East and Parts of Europe
mircaskirca Super Brazil coverage, in particular, the Northeast.
tiabunna Veteran for Australia and Antartica
EkahauVery Widely Traveled fellow, Excellent tips for Pakistan and Turkmenistan, and many parts of Africa.
Mary2u99 Outstanding Southeast Asia pages, and Netherlands
monina_c Detailed Coverage of Philippine Islands
painterdave One of VT's talented artists, and solid contributor for Tuscany, Colorado, and other places in western USA
Xaver Great Italian perspective, with solid notes about trips to Asia and other places
If I overlooked your efforts, please browse my pages, let me know with ratings and comments that you have read them, then e-mail me to read, rate, and comment on yours. I'm love to read and peer at the images of any VT member who wants me to, assuming that my tireless efforts are also rewarded in kind.
Naturally, images and text on my pages are my exclusive property, but they may be used with with my written permission. Thank you for reading this page.
The icon image is a photo of a our miniature schnauzer going for a ride in our orange Hobie Cat Kayak on the Smith Canal of Stockton.
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