New Zealand is a special and magical place. Its unique landscape brought life to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth and made it a reality. New Zealand’s vineyards and chefs are recognized around the world, almost as well as its proclivity for death-defying bungee, adrenaline-pumping ski runs, and dominating rugby team. From the urban buzz of Auckland to the awe-inspiring hiking trails of the South Island, one cannot help but envy the Kiwis. It didn’t take long for me to realize New Zealand is not only one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever visited, but one that has charmed its inhabitants into appreciating and taking pride in their cultural differences.
During a recent work trip, I decided to seek out some of the highest-praised shrimp & grits in Charleston, South Carolina. Transplants and locals alike raved about the amazingly delicious food scene and dropped the names of their favorite area restaurants. I listened and was appreciative of all their insights, but adamantly made clear that I only had eyes for shrimp & grits. Some of their suggestions made it onto my list, while others were left off based on the limited time that I was available. Regardless, over my 9-day rampage across Charleston, I experienced 11 of the best shrimp & grits restaurants in the area.
For years I heard the Canadian Rockies were even more spectacular than the stretch through the USA. It’s no secret that the Canadian provinces of Alberta (A) and British Columbia (BC) provide an amazingly scenic and adventurous outdoor wonderland. Brochures with evergreen-blanketed mountain passes and majestic snowcapped peaks casting their images in glassy glacial lakes are readily available on the internet. Tourists from all around the world book bus tours promising awe-inspiring panoramic views and a chance encounter with wildlife. I figured my time had come to brave the crowds and bear country and take my very own ABC road trip.
What do Americans really know about Australia? Do they picture Paul Hogan wandering through the Outback holding a Koala and oil can of Fosters while listening to ACDC? Perhaps, it’s Nicole Kidman dining on kangaroo steak and a bloomin’ onion while drinking Shiraz in the shadows of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge? Regardless of ridiculous stereotype, I wanted to better understand the energy and people of Australia during a recent trip to the land of Oz. What I found along the way were gregariously friendly and resourceful people that were proud of their beautiful country. Many Americans probably romanticize Australia as this wild and exotic place down unda’; and certainly, that wouldn’t be too far from reality. However, I found that Australia and the USA have more in common than they might care to admit.
On a recent work trip to San Marcos, I decided to seek out some of the highest-praised BBQ in central Texas. Like many of my travels, it began with an idea and led to an obsession and gluttonous adventure. My ultimate goal was to visit a different place each day and then rank them. To maintain fairness, I decided I would order the same items at each location: brisket (some lean, some fatty), pork spare ribs, coleslaw, and beans. I conducted some preliminary online research to identify the highest rated barbecue places within a 1 ½-hour drive of San Marcos. After considering each location’s days and hours of operation against my schedule, I narrowed down the list and began my “7 days of Q.”
I don’t envy the tourist board tasked with attracting travelers to a destination called “Iceland.” There are no large amusement parks, tropical white sand beaches, or even a single Starbucks. Most people might recall its recent financial meltdown, or perhaps the volcanic eruption that closed European airspace for several days. Its only highway, shockingly donned Highway 1, provides a 2-lane ribbon of asphalt around the perimeter of the island, while the river-breached roads of the interior are restricted to 4-wheel drive vehicles. Iceland’s culinary all-stars include fermented shark, roasted sheep head, minke whale, puffin, and horse; all of which can be washed down with the national firewater: Brennivin, otherwise known as “Black Death.” All of this begs the question: Why would anybody want to travel to Iceland? It’s exactly this type of question that drives me in search of an answer.
We were late... We woke up late. We ate breakfast late. We filtered water late. We broke down camp late. We eventually hit the trail a little after 9:00AM. Trust me, that's hella late. We had over 7 miles and two passes to cover before early afternoon when the mountain weather gets as unpredictably moody as a newborn.