This was a trip for the books … Get Lost Magazine sent me to Tahiti to cruise with the legendary Aranui to the remote Polynesian Marquesas islands. What’s so special about the Aranui is that it’s half cargo ship, half luxury liner, the only boat of its kind. That’s how they are able to bring tourist to these absolutely remote islands that are simply not touristed by anyone else. You get to see Polynesian life as it happens naturally, which is a rare and special treat.
Make no mistake, as a passenger you are pampered and treated to some of the best cruising in the world. 5 star accomodations, amazing cuisine, shopping, entertainment, you name it. It’s a very special trip, and just watching this video makes me smile thinking of all the fantastic friends I made that quickly became family to me.
If you’re interested, check out a few of the other videos I’ve done that highlight the ship, and the different island destinations we hit up. It was in a word… magical.
Ua Pou in the Marquesas islands of Polynesia is a fascinating place. Home of traditional Hula Kahiko, the most amazing abundance of tropical fruits, and the world’s only chocolate grown in Polynesia, this emerald island is not to be missed.
The small town sits above a green bay with white sandy beaches where you can kayak or take the sun. In the town center is a community garden, where locals will bring their arts and crafts, and lots of fruit for you to try, which is amazing. Don’t miss out on visiting the little general store to pick up some amazing local honeys and wares.
One of the most unique elements of the island is a man named Manfred Drexler (badass) who was born in East Germany and escaped to Tahiti 35 years ago. A chocolatier by trade, he pioneered the planting of cocoa on the island, and now produces the only chocolate in all of Polynesia. In a region of the world where vanilla is king, Manfred looked the other way, and brought the good dark brown stuff to this island paradise. It’s a unique chocolate, silky smooth, with rich umami and toasted flavors, and definitely a unique gift to bring home.
Of course a trip to Ua Pou would not be complete without experiencing traditional Hula Kahiko dance performed on a sacred heiau, which is beautiful, haunting, and exciting to watch. The men are ferocious, and the women graceful, and together they bring the spirit of Polynesia to life. Thanks Aranui for bringing us to paradise.
Ua Huka in the Marquesas islands, is a remote paradise with lush green valleys, high peaks for carving, and amazing museums and wood carving centers throughout the island. The first Western navigator to sight the island was U.S. Navy Capt. Joseph Ingraham in 1791. He named the island “Washington Island” in honor of U.S. President George Washington, which blows my mind, considering that not many foreigners have visited the island since.
From Lonely Planet: This low-key, little-visited island feels entirely clean of the troubles of the world; the trees are heavy with fruit, wind whips over the mostly bare hills, surf swishes against the rocky cliffs – and good luck getting a signal on your cell phone outside of Vaipaee. Woodcarving is the main activity here and this is the land of masters. There are only three villages, and after a day or two the small communities here seem to absorb you like a giant, friendly sponge. Watch the artisans at work; zigzag up the flanks of an extinct volcano to reach mysterious archaeological sites in the jungle; look for one of the world’s rarest and most beautiful birds; and delve right into Marquesan life.
Nuku Hiva has always been the most magical and mythical of the Polynesian Marquesas islands, attracting Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson to its idyllic shores over a hundred years ago. Today you can still find much of the magic tucked away in its dramatic coastline, or through its misty plateau called To’ovi’i, which is covered in a pine forest, giving it much the appearance of the lower Alps in Germany rather than a paradise island of the Pacific.
Nuku Hiva’s history is rich, dating back at least 2000 years when the first people came to colonize the island. It has been a magnet for many cultures including Tahiti, Hawaii’i, the Cook Island and even New Zealand, and this melting pot has created a robust living and truly unique culture on Nuku Hiva. Dancing, woodworking, and a fantastic cuisine are all the product of having these many people bring their cultures to this largest island of the Marquesas.
One of the more controversial historic points is that Cannibalism was practiced on the island by the first inhabitants, more out of necessity then for ritual purposes. Since there is no written history but just accounts and verbal history to take in account, many have chosen not to include it in modern studies of the island and its inhabitants. True or not, the current locals of the islands are perhaps some of the most lovely and welcoming in the world, and obviously do not practice cannibalism in any form today. Rather, they have amazing feasts!
Pig roasts, or Umu, are a ceremony in Nuku Hiva, and no one does it better then Yvonnes in Nuku Hiva. Whole beasts are put in a wire cage, with breadfruit, taro and other veritable delights, covered with banana leaves, and placed under hot coals. There they are slow roasted for hours, before being unearthed, prepared, and served. Pisson cru (raw tuna with coconut milk), various raw fish, crabs, shrimp, taro, manioc, breadfruit, umara (sweet potato), several types of bananas, and tons of sauces and mashed stuff. It’s a total taste bud overload. And then there is fafaru, which you should just read about here because it’s a bit hard to describe.
The darling down of Taioha’e is to be relished, with it’s colonial and indigenous mix of architecture and culture blending together in an island setting. There you will find the Notre Dame Cathedral, a strong reminder of the far reaching Catholic influence even here in the middle of the Pacific ocean. This beautiful structure is covered in some of the most lovely wood carvings you have ever seen, with cartoonish poses in religious settings. Regardless of your belief or feelings about religion, it is worth a visit just for the craftsmanship.
Before Catholicism was injected into the culture, Nuku Hiva’s original inhabitants had a very strong and complex religious and cultural beliefs. Indigenous religion was strongly dualistic, postulating a living world of light ( ao ) and a world of ghosts, deities, darkness, and night (po). The presence of deities ( etua ) in this world was believed to be vital for making work efficacious and for securing life and prosperity. There was an extensive hierarchy of deities, ranging from the founding originators of the cosmos to their particular expressions in the gods of occupations and places, and there also were apotheosized shamans and chiefs, often linked with local temples ( me’ae). The aggrieved ghosts of major shamans were often propitiated to relieve famine, and many lesser figures were associated with illness and other misfortunes. Since the late nineteenth century, more than 90 percent of Marquesans have become Catholics, most of the remainder being Protestants descended from Hawaiian mission teachers. Modern Marquesan religion has not been adequately investigated, but syncretic elements appear to persist, including belief in a range of evil spirits, such as ghosts of women who have died in childbirth. Archeological sites are all over the island, and it is common to be able to find and explore Marae, which are Polynesian temples. Nuku Hiva has some of the most preserved temples in Polynesia, some next to ancient sacred trees that really impress upon you the power of this place.
Overall no trip to the Marquesas is really complete without visiting Nuku Hiva, which has intrigued visitors from around the world for centuries. Herman Melville wrote Typee there in 1846 and Robert Louis Stevenson‘s first landfall on his voyage on the Casco was at Hatihe’u, on the north side of the island, in 1888. Since then many an intrepid traveller has ventured across the Pacific to witness the gentle marvel that is Nuku Hiva, and I was just so happy that the Aranui was able to bring me there in comfort and style to enjoy it’s boundless beauty, and fascinating culture.
Today aboard the Aranui we visit perhaps my favorite of the Marquesas Island chain, Fatu Hiva, which has some of the most amazing culture, local arts, beautiful bays, and amazing hiking that Polynesia has to offer.
From Tahiti Island Travel: At about 75 kilometers from Hiva Oa, Fatu Hiva is the southernmost island in the Marquesas and has a striking outline, particularly when approaching the famous bay known as the Bay of Virgins. The island offers a number of interesting excursions, the cross-island road that joins the two villages of Hanavavae and Omoa, a 4-hour long hike, is unmissable. The route has spectacular views and passes through luxuriant tropical vegetation, with its heady mixture of exotic fragrances.
The 650 inhabitants live mainly from fishing, coprah production, growing nono – a fruit with astonishing medicinal virtues.
The talented Local sculptors have a vast array of materials to choose from, including sandalwood, rose wood and coconut wood. There are also a variety of vegetable fibers, at hand, the island continues to produce tapa or bark-cloth, decorated with traditional designs – it is a forgotten art on many other islands.
Fatu Hiva is a world lost in time, even within the Marquesas!
Fatu Hiva is the island of tapa, a magnificent cloth which is made using the bark of the Banyan, Breadfruit and Paper Mulberry trees. These large sheets of fabric, laboriously made by beating the layer of bark, were traditionally used to protect ones’ privacy, making curtains, coverings or clothing. Large lengths of cloth were worn during important ceremonies and tribal war, the length and quality of the cloth being a sign of wealth and status. Today the smaller pieces are more commonly decorated with geometric or natural designs.
There is also a unique opportunity to visit the turn of the century home of M. William Grelet, a Legion of Honor general who’s amazing island home has been perfectly preserved, right down to the bed linens. Very cool to be able to walk through history.
The highlight of the trip for me at least was the hike up the center of the island which is a plateau covered largely by tall grasses and pandanus trees. To the south of the plateau, running to the south, is a mountain ridge, called Tauauoho, its highest peak, at 1,125 m (3,691 ft.) is the highest point on Fatu-Hiva. From there you can almost touch heaven.
Fakarava is one of my favorite islands in French Polynesia, not only being one of the best places to buy pearls, but a beautiful island to explore either by foot, bike, or on sea.
It’s easy to rent a bike in town and explore the miles of sandy beaches on both sides of this atoll paradise island, or travel down to Havaiki resort which has a fantastic little hut right over the water where you can open your own oysters to get at the beautiful pearl inside.
For just a few dollars you can choose your oyster, and the experts there will open it for you to receive your treasure. They’ll even remove the tasty little scallop and squeeze some lime juice on it for you to have a fresh ocean treat.
Later if you like you can take it on shore and have them set it in a necklace, or, you can buy one of the amazing pieces of jewelry they craft in house. Or you could always just buy an ice cold beer and take it into one of their lagoon submerged tables to drink the way the islanders do. Any way you do it it’s paradise on earth.
The Marquesas are a remote island chain that are extremely difficult to get to, making them a pristine treasure of polynesia. Fortunately Aranui cruises offers passage there where you can enjoy these rare sights in style.
A donkey Sandwich in Beijing China sounds disgusting, but actually this common asian treat is rather delicious. Soft, tender, and super flavorful, I equate it to a “Peaking Pastrami” if you will. Here, I risk, life, limb and indigestion to try this new delight.
This is a special episode of TravelClast that is honoring the Sandwich King of Astoria Charlie Gordon who made the absolute best bites over at the Sal, Kris & Charlie’s Deli in my hometown. RIP to the man who always said “everyday is a holiday” especially if you had a sammy in your hand. You will be missed pal.
You can see more sandwich madness on http://www.mmas.tv or stay tuned right here at the TravelClast.
One of the most incredible trips I’ve ever taken was aboard the Academik Iofffe with One Ocean Expeditions. The ship is a Russian research vessel, that for a short period in the summer, takes on a few civilians to journey through the famed NorthWest Passage. Aboard a crew of specialist ranging from glaciologists, environmentalist, to historians curating the trip for you and explaining this amazingly complex and fascinating region or earth in extreme detail. It is by far the most amazing experience I’ve had, and to fly a drone above the Arctic Circle was a first in my book as well.
The world is being destroyed by tourism and I am the cause. There are currently 1.4 billion tourists out there and that number is only growing at an alarming rate. The world is addicted to travelling and I am one of the many pushers out there on the streets giving them their fix.
I have been travelling seriously since I was 15. An only son of two Airline parents I would hop a companion pass and take off with a few dollars in my pocket. Back then there was no internet, not smartphones, and the only information you had about a destination was what you brought in with you, usually in the form of a bent and beaten Globe Trekker guide that had 4 year old outdated information in it. It was an adventure to survive a city with every street a new possibility to have your mind blown. Not knowing what to expect was the greatest gift to travel.
I have watched the world, travel, and tourists change drastically over the last 20 years slowly building an acute awareness that we are destroying something that is not only a multi-billion dollar industry, but a true pure passion for most. Travel used to mean going someplace new, and more importantly, unknown. It meant discovery. It meant frequent bad meals, and quasi-dangerous hostels between getting lost, and very lost in places that simply had no use for another random person. However that environment yielded something that most travelers never even experience these days; discovery.
Cambodian children seeing a drone fly for the first time.
For most travelers they have already taken the trip before leaving their laptop or cellphone. They have had a full blown case of FOMO from seeing it on instagram, they know what the best restaurants are and even what the food tastes like, they know all the cool spots, secret menu items, and wifi passwords before stepping out the door. At best they will be walking through a memory yet had, expecting everything, being let down often, and seldomly being surprised. They will fake excitement to everyone not watching them eat something online, and they will return unfortunately with all the satisfaction of finishing a series on Netflix. Paint by numbers travel is the status quo, and I have been doling out these colors for years. No more.
I have extreme regret for what I did to destroy the world. Worse then what bankers did to our trust in economics, because I killed something living and breathing. There are so many voices out there forcing people to do this, see those, and eat that that we just seem to be running in circles of each other. Dreaded “top 10” lists are unnaturally formed, since most travellers only consider the most rated items on sites like Expedia, Kayak and Trip Advisor, which I have contributed nearly 1,000 reviews. I am the Baba Yaga of travel, and need to repent.
“We are drowning in tourists,” Guðmundur, one of the only locals that actually befriended me during my time there, passionately tells me over an 18 USD crap draft beer. “We can’t eat, we can’t drink, we can’t walk down the street. We are infested with tourists. And I hate you.” Harsh, perhaps a bit intoxicated words, but true nevertheless. Iceland opens its doors to over 2 million overnight visitors each year, which is 6 times the countries population if you can believe it. “The tourists are like locust. That are loud, and fat and only go to see the stupid waterfall or sit in a man made pool to take pictures.” Guðmundur clearly has had enough but his point is made. Iceland’s greatest export is tourism at over 40% of their GDP coming from travel. With the end of WOW air, the country faced yet another collapse in their economy, one that travel tried to save. It is wholly unsustainable however, and more gravely, destroys the exact thing people are coming there for, the culture.
Beer is 18 dollars a glass. A $5 foot long Subway sandwich is 25 dollars. Renting a car requires a down payment of 300k dollars. That last one isn’t true, but that’s the feeling you get. When I tell you it is easier to rent an apartment in NYC then go out to eat in Reykjavik I’m not kidding.
Worse of all the people don’t want us. They don’t like us. We make everything expensive for them, we crowd the streets, and we are consuming disposable culture. “We are only interested in the 5 year friend, not the 5 minute friend.” Guðmundur tells me is the reason why no one even wants to talk to me at a bar. They know I’m just passing through.
In all my years of travel I have never felt so disgusting in all my life. Despite always trying to be a model tourist, there was no salvation here. It was a wake up call, that my love in life was threatening to implode on itself, and there is no way of stopping it.
There is, however, a way to avoid it.
There is a way to bring back the discovery, a way to bring back that original, irreplaceable feeling of wonder that I have been trying to maintain for 20 years. It takes a little work, and definitely courage, but it for the most part will ease the pain of an over-touristed planet. People are going to be irresponsible. They are going to take the easy road and top-10 themselves to death never to know the true beauty of being a professional traveler. We can only lead by example, so here are my 5 commandments to being a good traveller.
1. Be nice.
I start with this as it is the most important tool in your arsenal. Niceness will always get you the most out of any situation, period. Flight oversold and you’re stuck? Don’t yell at the poor human that is in front of you. Be nice. They’ll help you out if they can, or they won’t, but yelling is never going to make the odds of that any better. Someone purposefully trying to be a dick to you because they don’t like your accent/shoes/man-bun? Be nice, because it’s an opportunity to open their world to a new perspective, or at the very least you’re less likely to get shived if that was their plan. Just be nice. In general everyone around the world will open up to you if you show genuine interest in who they are and their culture, and if you’re nice about it, they’ll want to share. Don’t be afraid, be nice.
2. Be different.
I love Instagram. I love Trip Advisor. I love AirBnB. They tell me exactly the places to avoid writing about at all cost. If a country, a city or an experience is part of a top 10 then there is no reason for me to write about it. It’s had its moment in the sun, and I guarantee you there is better amatriciana, a better little museum, or a better secret bar just waiting to be discovered, mainly, because it will be yours, and the people there will be so happy to see you. SPREAD TRAVEL AROUND. That is your job as a travel journalist, to find NEW experiences for people to have, not to regurgitate well tread garbage. Sure some things need to be seen like Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia or Machu Picchu, but don’t leave out Amsterdam’s Cat Museum or a visit to the oldest lightbulb in the world.
3. Be honest.
No one fails at vacationing. Or do they? I think failing is one of the most important parts of travel, yet, you would be hard pressed to find some of the most popular instagram accounts with anything less then impossibly perfect travel shots. This is garbage. Travel is hard. Bags are heavy. Communication can be difficult. Jet lag is real. Be honest. Be honest with your travel, and you will get so much more out of the experience of sharing it. If everything is so damn fabulous then how do you know it’s actually fabulous? Share bad experiences, and more, just be real with your audience about what is happening. Do they really have to eat this donut? Will it really blow their minds? I hundreds of reviews on Trip advisor, you know how many I’ve given 5 stars to? only 3. It’s no secret people find bad reviews more telling then good reviews.
4. Be ready.
If you like to make things to make things while you travel like me, you know that having the right gear is key. Too much and you’ll weigh yourself down, too little and you’ll be cursing yourself for not bringing “that lens”. Be ready. While technology changes constantly, I have a pretty solid set of tools I like to bring with me on any job. Here’s a quick little film I put together before my last trip:
And here is a rundown of the gear. Mind you I’m not sponsored by any of these brands. This is just my honest opinion from my experience as a traveller.
Perhaps the most important tip is to get lost. Getting lost is the only way to really discover anything about a place, and about yourself. If you research everything before you go, your experience will be predetermined. It is what is plaguing the world right now, channeling millions of people to the same city to eat the same meal in the same restaurant. How very boring, and dangerous, to the travel industry. Instead, be lost. Put the phone away, turn off the internet, forget the top 10 places and explore. Try talking with people that live in the city. If you are going to use social media, then reach out to locals for their advice. That’s what we did when we made films for WOW airlines and while TripAdvisor, Travel & Leisure and Culture Trip are great resources, we wanted what locals knew best about their city in hopes to give intrepid travellers a more authentic experience. If you are running into other tourists at places on trips, you may want to rethink your strategy.
They are simple guidelines I like to follow that hopefully will not contribute to the pandemic travel malarkey that is shrouding our world. I have always believed that “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness” but unfortunately it’s becoming less effective. Hopefully this is a growing pain of a world getting smaller, and people will become more savvy looking for real experiences other then just virtual instagram moments. Finally, because I love “top 5” lists, I’ll answer the top 5 questions I get.
Q: Do you ever have any trouble with the TSA with all that gear?
A: Depends. There is no rhyme or reason when they will stop and search a bag of mine, despite literally packing it the same way for a decade. I do have TSA pre and Global Entry which helps a ton, but overall rule number one of “Be Nice” seems to be the only real salvation in a TSA situation.
Q: What phone carrier do you use? Is it not really expensive traveling as much as you do?
A: Google Fi on a Google Pixel. Before Google Fi I had AT&T for my iPhone, and yeah, it sucked. I did buy a cheap Samsung that I could pop a local SIM card in, but that was a pain too. Google Fi changed all that as I can literally go anywhere in the world and my phone works for the same data rate. It’s a game changer.
Q: Do you need a permit to fly a drone in all those countries?
A: Yes. You do. Legally. Drones are amazing tools that really take travel filmmaking to a new level. The key with them, as with anything, is be professional. I am FAA and IAA certified and licensed. I never fly in dangerous areas and don’t break laws. More importantly I don’t ever fly if I’m going to annoy someone or ruin their experience. Drones are loud, and people don’t like them, so be invisible, be quick, and be safe.
Q: Are there any specific clothing brands you like?
A: Socks I like Stance. PrAna also makes great travel gear that looks swank, great jeans and pants and shirts that don’t wrinkle. Buck Mason makes great lightweight clothes that look good dressed up or down. Duluth makes great tactical underwear. Yes tactical underwear.
Q: Do you know any travel hacks?
A: Hmm… well one thing I do is always keep an old hotel key with me in my go bag. Reason being is that most modern hotels these days require you put a key in to get the outlets to work, and if you’re charging batteries, then you best leave a key in while you’re out.
Madrid is an ancient city with a rich, complex history which can easily be tasted in its cuisine. Moorish influences rounded out by mediterranean sensibilities, flavored with a bit of panache from Gaul, Madrid has a cosmopolitan palate to suit any taste.
My first stop was the Mercado de San Miguel, which is classified as food hall but is much more a cathedral to cuisine. Truly expansive and well designed, this cavernous delicious depot has flavors, food, and drink to satiate any desire. From small plates, to fried delights, to fresh produce, and delicious wines, you can easily spend hours wandering through the stalls, sampling all the flavors that make up Madrid.
For a more entrenched experience La Huerta de Tudela is a must, which is one of the most beautiful restaurants I have ever had the pleasure of dining in. Light, warm and with a welcomed attention to detail, La Huerta is a self contained experience all to it’s own. Here ingredients are brought fresh every morning from their local farm to make some of the brightest and flavorful dishes in all of Spain.
Madrid is of course no stranger to tapas, and Casa Macareno located in the flirty malasana district is its finest example. Locals fill the joint starting with Russian salads, then finishing with epic house cured charcuterie platters that will leave you howling.
For a more modern approach on tapas La Musa will amuse you for sure. Sit al fresco in the lovely Plaza Paja and treat yourself to fresh burrata, asian croquettes, Indonesian roasted cauliflower, camerons buns, and of course ice cold vermut to wash it down.
For an experience you simply won’t forget, reserve a stage-side table at Corral de la Moreria. This place is no secret and has been graced with some of the most talented actors in history and Brendan Fraser. Corral’s dinner service is exceptional, which it really doesn’t have to be, considering they provide the absolute best Flamenco dancing in the world nightly. Dancers have been picked by hand, and shows rotate every week, and have been since 1956. Unfortunately I witnessed Belen Lopez perform, and left my heart at the table. If you go see if it is still there for me.
Finally, if you want to have an experience you simply cannot anywhere else, experience Botin who make the best suckling Iberic pig you will ever have. They should know what they are doing since they’ve been making Suckling pig for over 300 years, and is the oldest restaurant in the world. It was so special I did a short documentary about them which is worth seeing if you’ve just eaten.