06 May 2019

Osprey's All Mighty Guarantee

This backpack served me well. 2012 Osprey Aether 70
As a traveler, I tend to do hella shopping at REI. They are my favorite store, but I go there often for a reason. These guys take care of customers and they take care of employees. More on that at another time. For now, I wanted to touch on one of the brands they stock of which I am a big fan. That would be Osprey.

I bought my Midnight Blue Osprey Aether 70 backpack in 2012 for my first trip to Central America. Well, my first time as a civilian, anyway. In any case, a backpack to a guy can be a very personal, dare I say intimate, and very necessary travel accessory. You can't just let someone else pick it out for you and give it to you as a gift. It's the same thing as a camera bag for photographers or purses for some women. So yeah... Quite personal.

Bus station, Guayaquil, Ecuador
You saw plenty of my adventures with that pack on my back or by my side. It's taken the abuse of hard travel, too. About 4 years ago, it fell off the top of a shuttle van doing 80 down a El Salvadoran highway. Later on, airport security, I can't recall where, cut the waist straps off of it. I assume it got caught on a conveyor belt or something. And just before this past New Year's, it got soaked in shrimp juice in the cargo hold of a bus in Ecuador.

Old backpack, Bogota, Colombia
Osprey has an Almighty Guarantee that says they'll repair or replace your bag. I asked about it when I got back stateside last month. They scanned my membership card, checked my account, tracked my purchase receipt, and told me to go pick out a bag, as my Midnight Blue Osprey Aether 70 was beyond repair. Yeah, I picked out a new bag real quick. THEN dude, told me I get a $5.87 credit back to my card. I was all excited to get a new bag. UNTIL the guy also told me I had to hand over my original backpack.

New Osprey Aether 70 AG
I handed it to him. He grabbed hold to take it, but I didn't let go. He tried to pull again. I still didn't let go. The understanding cashier must have experienced this before. He saw my anxiety and gave me a moment, before explaining that the exchange required him to take the old backpack. I understood. I did. Letting go was still hard, but I eventually opened my fingers and released the pack. It didn't occur to me to get pics. I didn't think to even ask if it was going to a good home. But much like my recent post about the transient nature of travel friends, it still sucks saying good-bye.

So now I have a brand new Adirondack Green Osprey Aether 70. I still chose to go with this style of backpack. It suits me and they have made some upgrades. Some of which I am still getting used to. The top lid actually detaches like the old one, but instead of converting to a fanny pack, the new one has straps and becomes a day pack backpack. I'm going to have to spend some more time with it on my back before I can say whether the new Anti-Gravity tech feels better on my back than the former Airscape design. I can, however say that the new waist-strap is much more stiffer and is supposed to better provide a custom mold to you once you get it on and spend some time with it. All in all, I really like the pack. I have a good feel for it and I expect some great adventures with it.

30 April 2019

How a Cracked Tooth Can Mess Up Plans

"Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor"

Art Model, @JennyPoses4U_2 ©2019 Terrell Neasley
There are always opportunities around us. The trick to taking advantage of them exists in two possibilities. One, you have to be sensitive enough to see it when it appears before you. Or two, you prepare yourselves in such a manner that you can seize slash create those opportunities. So it's either the opportunities come to you or you go get them. As life would have it, one of the best times to catch these opportunities (or make them) is in moments of crises. This is not a motivational speech, however. Nope! Not in the least. This is my update to you on my adventures AND challenges. I try to be real. I want you to see me struggle and overcome those struggles too. And I don't want to be stupid about this. Hell, maybe you know of some options or OPPORTUNITIES I can take advantage of.

I'm presently stateside in Tennessee. I came back to surprise my mother for her birthday last month in Texas, see the kiddos in TN, road trip from Vegas to Yosemite, and then head back to down south to Argentina around mid-May to finish the South America leg of my journey. Yeah...that was a great plan until I CRACKED a tooth...lower jaw rear left side molar. Dentist says I need a crown which incidentally would take minimum 3 months. Closest appointment date? Mid-July in Vegas. What the hell am I going to do around here til MID-JULY?? More to the point though is where to stay, how to get around, and then the question of making money. I don't want to just sit some place doing nothing.

Art Model, @JennyPoses4U_2 ©2019 Terrell Neasley
It's expensive staying here in the States. Last time I was in Vegas it cost me a grand a week between hotels and car rentals. Making money this time around wouldn't be as much an issue if it wasn't for Argentina. Going down there for me is at least a thousand dollars in winter gear and then flights to Ushuaia for another grand. It feels funny when I say I'm technically homeless at the moment. At least I always find it funny to say. But this situation puts me on notice that I need a better plan for when I come back stateside for more than a few weeks.

One option is to go someplace cheap and return again in July to fix the tooth. Mexico or Central America are plausible spots. What I really think I want is a 2-month gig with a fat payday!! I don't care where it is in the US...or the world for that matter. The last thing I want to do is get bored to death sitting around waiting for time to pass to get my tooth done. I can justify spending money for either doing something epic or at least doing something that is making me even more money. I want something to do! I guess I can discount some of my art, too. I still print big, but instead of $3500 for a print, maybe $2k. I don't know. I'm just thinking out loud. Coming up with a plan to sell my landscape work more consistently wouldn't be a bad idea either. I haven't sold anything since last Sept.

Art Model, @JennyPoses4U_2 ©2019 Terrell Neasley
But regardless, when I do get my tooth fixed, I still have to finish my travels in South America. Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, and one more time in Colombia are my priorities. If I can do this like I'm thinking, it's travel to Southern Argentina and make my way northward. Tierra del Fuego, Torres del Paine in Chile. Then Salar de Uyuni and The Death Road in Bolivia. Fly to Brazil and make a 2nd attempt at the 2-week boat trip up the Amazon River. Disembark in Leticia, Colombia. Fly up to Cartagena, Colombia and redo my northern Colombia trek... praying to God I have a model with me. Actually, I'd love to have a model with me from the time I hit the Amazon. All that done by the first part of September and then getting ready to begin my next travel adventure likely in the South Pacific Islands.

I've completed all of Art Model Jennifer's edits from our Feb/Mar excursion in Peru. Her book is also just about done. Final touches, get it ordered, and then I'll have it in my hands. I won't post a link to view it until she gets her copy, of course. She got naked... it's her gig ...she gets dibbs. We got a ton of work from this project and I sincerely hopes her husband loves the finished product as much as I have loved making it. She was absent from her family for 3 weeks to do this gig and I don't think they are used to not having her around for that long. So I hope in the end, they can look at the book, hear her stories, and conclude that the experience was well worth it.

Art Model, @JennyPoses4U_2 ©2019 Terrell Neasley
I want this adventure to inspire others to come out and join me. Even if you're not shooting nudes or even joining me in my travels, my hope is that my stories can inspire you to get out and see what the world is like and to venture outside the US if you've never done so. Get your passport done. You never know when an opportunity will cross your path. If you don't at least have a passport, then you are not prepared to take advantage of an opportunity that could present itself. Either way, if you get it, it's like having a ticket. Now you have to only book a flight. Make a reservation at some hostel. Now you are on your way! Get out and see something different. The world awaits your company.

Art Model, @JennyPoses4U_2 ©2019 Terrell Neasley

16 April 2019

Travel Nudes - Jenny in Peru

Art Model, @JennyPoses4U_2 ©2019 Terrell Neasley

During my last month in Peru, I got to work with art model, @JennyPoses4U_2,  who traveled to Peru from the US to shoot with me. She met me in Lima, Peru's capital city, and we traveled for 3 weeks up to Northern Peru, back to Lima, and then to two locations in Southern Peru before returning again to Lima. We spent almost a week up north at a beach bungalow resort before heading south to Puno on Lake Titicaca. There, we stayed with hosts on a man-made island built by a family from the Aymaras, (nope, not Incas) who's culture has lasted for centuries on this lake at 12,000 feet above sea level. Lastly, a visit to a lodge in Colca Canyon turned out to be extraordinary.

Northern Peru

After a few days in Lima to settle in, we took a flight to Piura and bused to our hotel in Cancas, just north of the popular town of Mancora. Why? Well, when you have nudes on your itinerary, less people and more private beaches may come at a premium, but its worth it. We chose a beachfront bungalow at a resort that had plenty of privacy and an interior worth shooting. Working with Jennifer early in the mornings allowed the best beach advantage. The tide was also at a low point. When we couldn't shoot outside, we did our best to be creative on the inside of our large and spacious bungalow.

Art Model, @JennyPoses4U_2 ©2019 Terrell Neasley

Art Model, @JennyPoses4U_2 ©2019 Terrell Neasley

Art Model, @JennyPoses4U_2 ©2019 Terrell Neasley

Back to Lima

We were actually in Lima 3 different times at 4 different hotels. One, when Jennifer flew in for two days. Again upon returning from Northern Peru. And twice more upon returning from Southern Peru til she flew back home. Each stay in Lima was 2 or 3 days. Of course, there was no outdoor shooting in Lima. But when we were not shooting inside, we went out and just explored. I am not the best city tourist, unfortunately, but I did my best to go shopping and sight seeing around the city without looking like I wanted to be in the wild somewhere. I'm not entirely certain I succeeded, however this was her adventure, too. So being a team player was important. Shopping, museums, and city tours were added to the agenda. Lima had all this aplenty, especially in the Miraflores and Barranco districts.

Art Model, @JennyPoses4U_2 ©2019 Terrell Neasley

Art Model, @JennyPoses4U_2 ©2019 Terrell Neasley

Art Model, @JennyPoses4U_2 ©2019 Terrell Neasley

Southern Peru

It was beautiful and relaxing on the beach for nearly a week in the north. But for me at least, the adventure began in the south. We flew to Puno along the banks of the famous Lake Titicaca which spans the border, and of which 40% is claimed by Bolivia. We were met by our host Wilbur of the Aymara people who live out ON the lake on an island that HE made of reeds. He keeps adding layers every so often as the island will fully submerge after 20 to 30 years. We spent 3 days with this family where the nights are below freezing despite the fact that they were in the summer season. We got 2.5 liter hot water bottles to keep us warm and this was our only source of heat at night. Of course this is not a large island; maybe 50' x 50', so there was not much shooting outdoors and the interiors were not as appealing. Mainly just white walls.

Art Model, @JennyPoses4U_2 ©2019 Terrell Neasley
Colca Canyon
We bused for 6 hours northward, (but still in Southern Peru) to Chivay and then a taxi 10 mins down the road to the town of Yanque. Here we stayed at another lodge that sat on the precipice along Colca Canyon at it's midpoint. Breath-taking is the most literal way I could describe this place. What we missed shooting in on Lake Titicaca, we more than made up for it, shooting here. I endeavor to return here and venture more into this canyon. It's about 45 miles long and over 10,000 feet deep, which is even deeper than the Grand Canyon at 6,000 feet. That gives me a lot of ground to cover! But alas, only 3 days there, a 3 hour bus ride to Arequipa, and then a flight back to Lima. Jennifer returned home 3 days after that.

Art Model, @JennyPoses4U_2 ©2019 Terrell Neasley

Art Model, @JennyPoses4U_2 ©2019 Terrell Neasley

I've been editing for the last 5 weeks, going over more than 3 thousand photos taken over 3 weeks. Granted, most of my peers would be shooting that total per day! A book on this project is forthcoming, as well. I am confident to have it all completed within the first week of May and am looking forward to having a copy of that book in my hands. There's no comparison between looking at it on a computer screen versus having a series of tangible prints in your hands bound in a hardback 11 x 14 150-page book. These will be large full-page spreads on some of the best heavy stock paper made for printing. So yeah, I can't wait to see this. Maybe you'll like it, too! Or even better, maybe you'd like to do a shoot like this. Well... regardless, stay tuned.

21 February 2019

The Transient Nature of Travel Friends

Eglė in Lima 
“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” 
– Aldous Huxley

It has happened pretty much everywhere I go and everywhere I have been. Out of the blue, you meet someone under whatever circumstances and you guys just click. It might be just you and one other or 4 of you. It might take a little bit longer just depending on the time you have in the same proximity, but inevitably, you began to talk and realize commonalities. In either case, you know that you'll try to enjoy your new company despite the known brevity of the situation.

The most meaningful aspects of these friendships are usually temporary, short-lived, and in many cases non-existent after that initial encounter. That's just something you have to get used to. Its the nature of the state of travel and is inevitable. I experienced this as a soldier, although it may be for longer periods of up to 3 years at a time. You'd serve together at one duty station, but at some point, one of you gets transferred to another place or leaves the service entirely. If you're fortunate, you'll see each other down the road again.

Eglė in Lima 
I'm was at my first AirBnB earlier this month. I've had an account for years now, but have never actually stayed at a place using that service. I've almost been exclusively Booking.com. I saved $160 for my two week stay compared to the hotel I had originally booked. I have my own room with a private bathroom, which is my usual requirement, but this place has about 8 available spaces in this house and we have the option to join everyone for breakfast.

For me, this is where I learn the most. These numerous encounters allow for a more various exchange of ideas. I'm learning more about the countries my fellow travelers are from, as well as getting input on my own travels. I'm in Tumbes this very second because of a German girl I met in Bogota back in November who'd already been here. This place was not on my radar at all and right now, I'm writing this post listening to waves crash on the shore mere feet from my bungalow.

Eglė in Lima 
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” 
Anthony Bourdain

I think its also important for me to listen to the world view of perceptions about Americans. This is an opportunity for me to be an ambassador for my country. Sometimes I might be able to change a negative perception or just clarify them. Other times, I can do naught but listen. Case in point, Cartagena. I met a Canadian couple who expressed themselves with relation to the US calling Canada a security threat and raising tariffs back in September of 2018.

Andres, Moses, Sasi, Plaza de Armas, Lima, Peru
About two weeks ago, someone asked me why do Americans hate Mexico. We talked about this for a bit, and I have been honestly dismayed. Right now, the overall perception, at least as far as my travel experiences have taken me, have been the world is basically wondering..."WTF, America?" I've been happy to address their questions. I try to do so in the most, I guess you would call it, diplomatic, means possible. I'm never interested in a heated debate. I won't engage in that. Meaningful dialog is all I will entertain.

Recently, while staying at an AirBnB in Lima, I got the privilege of meeting Andres from Colombia, Sasi from Finland, Eglė from Lithuania, and Moses from New Jersey. I enjoyed getting to hang out with these guys and learn from them. Moses and I even found a Popeye's (fried chicken)! I spent longest with Eglė. She was there for another week after I arrived and then she packed up her motorcycle and followed her heart. Talk about an amazing woman. Absolutely fearless, but maintains the ability to see a good spirit in people. I think she has faith in humanity still. Talking to her, I was able to offer insight on perspectives important to her and she reciprocated by opening my mind to alternative possibilities that I had been searching out. That is the epitome of the exchange I am referring to.

Andres, Sasi, and Moses, Pisco Sours are a huge Peruvian tradition
For about 30 minutes, I talked with a Croatian woman who I could tell was heavy into yoga. You could definitely tell she is a highly perceptive woman. After a couple of discerning observations, a few intuitive well-targeted questions, I had to ask what she did for a living. Yep... Therapist. I could only guess a good one at that. She called for an Uber soon after to catch her 41-hour flight back to Croatia. Thirty minutes is all it took for an indelible memory.

Btw...I'm just a kid from a small country town in Texas. I now know TWO women named Eglė from Lithuania.

Sasi, Andres, Moses doing Cebiche where the locals do Cebiche!

11 January 2019

What's it Been Like for My First Year of Travel - Part Two

Current Location: Peru
Next Location: Likely, Southern Argentina

“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.” 
– Anthony Bourdain

So yeah... 2018 was trial run. Now its time to get serious. And to do that, I have to learn some things, Spanish being chiefest. I'm getting better. I'd say 20% of the Spanish language is familiar to me. I need to work on deciphering the actual words I hear, my Spanish vocabulary, and how to say things in proper tense. Somehow... I have to get used to Peruvian Spanish. I was horridly amazed that I couldn't understand even the basics of words I know already. I feel like I was given all the wrong study material for the test. Fortunately, I have two months here.

Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Beyond that, I'd say I still have to learn to budget better. I've got to get better with my money and accounting for expenses. Ironically, in my previous profession, I could track millions of dollars and account for the nearest $10. Variable expenses seem to get me the most, but I need to be better at finding deals as well as reducing a compulsion to fly when I can take a bus for a tenth of the cost.

(Whoa...that reminds me... 
Gotta go do this check-in for tomorrow's flight to Lima real quick...) 

I tend to stay in private rooms with private baths in hotels or hostels, but maybe some AirBnB or homestays can be smarter. I'll be checking into this and using these next two months in Peru to talk to other travels and find out how to be better at doing this. Lima's going to be a good spot. Feb and March are going to be interesting. More on that later. Still planning for Patagonia in late March/April time-frame. Gotta get that figured out quickly, as well. It could be smart to trade out all my camera batteries and SD cards before then... that thought just came to me.

Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Focus and Discipline would be other objectives for my most immediate concerns. I can do better with my studies and training. This will in turn help me find and see the opportunities around me and thus, I can put myself in more advantageous positions that achieve my goals. Oh yeah...I got things to do when this journey is done.

San Pedro, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

But here are the things I HAVE learned, (though still a work in progress...)

1. Its Cool to Take a Break and Do Nothing.
This was the first thing I had to learn. Up to this point, its been either stay busy or try to stay busy. Having nothing on the table or scheduled events was not anything I'm used to. In the Army we'd have a DONSA... Day Of No Scheduled Activity. On these days we'd get a normal day of duty off and could spend that time doing whatever we wanted. But usually, it was still staying busy, just not at work. If you got a day off, you got busy at home. There was always something to do or fix. When I got to Xela, Guatemala in the apartment I was renting, I got to be alone and really on my own. It took me a while to not feel guilty or wasteful of time to just chill. Its good for the mind.

Punta Gallinas, Colombia

2. Nobody Can Live Your Life For You.
I turned 50 this past August. I wanted to make some resolution to myself and the first of which was that I wanted to care less about what other people thought about me. Let me clarify. I've seen a whole bunch of people getting off social media to get more quality time in their lives. I think that's a uniquely fine notion to adopt. For me, I think more quality to life is added with less time considering what other people are going to think about me if I do something or don't do something. From my perspective, people think about you less often than you think. And those that do, when they do so with judgement, are fickle so they don't matter. Leave'em be. All you can really do is YOU. Do you. Be you. Er'body else can go live their own lives and NOT your's.
The question you can ask yourself is, "Does it really matter what they think?"

Christmas, Mompiche, Ecuador

At this point, the only real people that can hurt me are the ones I let stay close and it does happen. But I keep that door open, anyway instead of closing up and keeping everyone out. I find that its less preferable to be a stone-cold bitch. And as we used to say in the Army... pain is what lets you know that you are still alive. Besides, a little pain every now and again only helps you fine tune your choices of inner circle membership. So, WIN! And no, that doesn't mean you spend your time whittling down your circle. Too many people are too quick to do that.

New Year's, Santo Domingo, Ecuador

3. If You Want to Get to the Right Answers, You May Need to Take a Second Look at the Questions You're Asking.
Sometimes this has to do with specificity, but more often than not, its going to be more about perspective. I'm sure you've seen that one meme that is a paragraph of self-loathing, but when you read the same words in the paragraph it becomes a motto of self-realization and confidence. I've had to step back a few times and re-examine why I kept coming up with the wrong solutions and all it took was a different perspective on the questions I was asking. Ask more specifically or change your perspective a bit. Changing perspectives will change your expectations and you won't be surprised with the conclusions.

This is a bible verse from Leviticus 19th Chapter, Verses 33 and 34:

"When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God."

Everybody you see in these shots did exactly that. I am a foreigner in their lands and I cannot even begin to articulate to you the hospitality I have been shown by them. I have been welcomed in their homes, sat and ate with them, given guidance and counsel, a bed, trusted with their families, and I cannot thank them enough for showing a sojourner how people are to act when you come their country and I am forever grateful.

Indeed, I am a work in progress. And you get to see me develop, experiment, try and fail... all the nasty with all the achievements. I hope you enjoy this ride. I want your questions. I want your input. Most of all, though... I want you with me.

So, come on.

08 January 2019

What's it Been Like for My First Year of Travel - Part One

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, © 2018 Terrell Neasley

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” - Gustav Flaubert

On September 7th of last year, I left the US to begin my backpacking trip around the world. That was a year ago, yesterday. Art Model, @Kayci.Lee accompanied me for that first month flying into Nicaragua. We traveled north up into Guatemala and in early Feb, she flew back to the States. Me...well, I found a home for 6 months in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

@Kayci.Lee and I traveled fast to many places trying to maximize time to shoot throughout the month of January. After she left, I sprouted roots. I rented an apartment and settled down in the cold mountains. My beautiful apartment was just what I needed and people were put in my path that definitely helped me along the way.

When did you ever get horse lessons while naked?
Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, © 2018 Terrell Neasley

In no way has this been all glorious fun filled days, but its definitely been an adventure. I've learned a lot about traveling and even more about myself. I've had fabulous escapades as well as sudden pitfalls, but its hard to complain about any of it. I still hear somebody tell me at least once a month that I am living their dream or that they wish they could live my life. Granted... I know they can't be serious because they don't know my life, but I get what they are trying to say. I just don't take them literally or let any of it go to my head. I don't fool myself, at least not in that regard.

I'm glad I didn't start my trip alone, but rather eased into it. It took some getting used to, I can assure you of that and the process wasn't immediate by any stretch of the imagination. My first lesson was simply trying to relax and not feel like I needed to have something scheduled every day. Along with that, I realized that I didn't have to feel guilty about chilling out or not doing something somebody else expected me to do (or not do). Next has been finding the "OVERALL" purpose and goals for this trip. I've still got to be about my business and that starts now.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, © 2018 Terrell Neasley

2018 has been a trial period. And for that reason, I say my 5-year stint starts now. I don't count 2018 as part of that. It was a year for acclamation and, as I call it, just learning to breathe easy. Granted I'm still working on that, but I have a much better mindset about it and a more clearer direction. I'm refining and making adjustments as I go. The plan was initially to zig zag my way down through South America. Now, I think its better to hop down as far south as you can go and make my way up again. Its going to be winter there by June, so I'd rather bounce on down there and head back up before the freeze sets in. After South America, I think I will head to either somewhere in the South Pacific or New Zealand instead of Vietnam. I'll see Vietnam now after I cover the South Pacific and come up through Indonesia.

Then, its just keep heading west as the flow takes me. But here's one thing that I've learned and it continues to be reinforced. People are the same. Families here are just like families stateside. Parents love their children. They want the best for them just like us. In Mompiche, Ecuador  during Christmas, a predominantly black family came by the beach house rolling in about 25 to 30 strong. I sat with them and drank a whiskey mixed with coconut water straight out of the tree. Do I need to specify that only the coconut water came out of a tree...not whiskey? Surely not... I digress. When we ran out of coconuts, somebody got 4 or 5 more of the tree and filled the pitcher back up.

Yep. She's in church.
Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, © 2018 Terrell Neasley

I even saw the same characters just like one of my family reunions. There was my cousin Sheila cracking jokes and laughing the loudest. My Mama was there as well as my uncle Ulice Ray. There was one brother who brought his white wife, who in this case she happened to be Cuban, but looked white. They had a girl that looked just like my daughter...no kidding, with that. And a son, named Jeremy...no kidding there either. The only and I repeat... ONLY difference is that they spoke Spanish. Well, that and they were mixing whiskey with coconut water. But we are all the same. Its been the same with all the Latin families I've come to know. I could still identify the same characters in my family with them.

I'm learning much more about black people. Not just African-AMERICANS, but black people from Colombia, Ecuador, Belize, and all over Central and South America. Its been quite the enlightening experience. I'll be talking more on this in the future, but its helping me learn a little more about myself, as well. But back to my point, Americans are no different than Ecuadorians, or Guatemalans, or Canadians. We just have different cultures and languages. Outside of that, we are the same.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, © 2018 Terrell Neasley

In each country I find the poor, as well as the well-off. Same in America. Opportunities are better in some countries than others. But I wish like FUCK crazy that we Americans stop looking down on other countries, particularly countries with people of color. Travel definitely helps one's perspective in this. I'm not talking about a trip to Cancun where you get off a plane, travel THROUGH the country to an enclosed all-inclusive resort. So if you listened to that public address from the White House Tuesday night, about the "dangerous people", I'm really hoping you can... damn people ...you can literally Google the facts yourselves. But if you want to believe the racist con man, I guess that's you. But YOU tell me what decent trustworthy human being has ever had his foundation shut down and then gets barred by the courts (along with his family) from running a charitable organization for the next ten years? That's what a CON-ARTIST literally gets busted for. Preying on charity cases! Same thing happened to his "University" just last year for fraud. Racist people market fear. Its like a standard bullet item for them. Stop friggin' giving life to the lies.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, © 2018 Terrell Neasley

As for me, I'm going to try my best to get better at photography. Getting my shots is, like...Goal number 1. Outside of that, its experiencing new people, cultures, and landscapes. And that doesn't always involve a camera, but rather just experiencing and appreciating life. Today is the first full day of my two month Peruvian experience. I pray God continues to bless me with great people along my path.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” – Mark Twain

13 December 2018

Ecuador, Peru, and ...Patagonia?

Mucho rain in the La Candelaria district of Bogota near Parque de Periodistas (Journalists Park)
First, let me say, Thank you Colombia. You've been impressive, inspirational, and just what I needed when I needed it. I'll likely be back later again before I leave South America. More on that later. I fly to Ecuador in the morning.

Alright. Here's a few things I'll address, since inquires have been made on the matters.

Nope... I haven't been taking any pics lately. Neither of my cameras have been out of the bag since I've returned on my journey. I've tried. I took a city tour and posted some graffiti art from my phone early on and maybe some selfies. But I've realized I've needed to take some time to process everything from this past Oct. Oct was a bitch. The holidays coming up won't be easy either. I'll be on an Ecuadorean beach for Christmas and in a treehouse for New Year's. Perchance, those locations could inspire me to shoot, (if I don't get rained out) but as far as I know, I'm gonna hold tight til I get to see my daughter and son-in-law mid-Jan. I have to make a choice to be fine after that. My brother wouldn't want me weeping or holding up my life over his passing. I know that much about him. He and I are alike in that regard. We both hate being a bother to anybody. So, 2019 will be a little different than this past year. I have to focus more on my money and my business coming up. I have work to do.

Bandeja Paisa, one of my favorite meals.

I think, late March/early April, I'm going to head to Patagonia and see what Fall pics I can get down there before it gets cold. If I stick to my regular course and continued on south through Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, and so forth, I wouldn't get down to Patagonia until Jun/July which is when their winter begins. So instead, I think I'll head  there right after I get done with Peru sometime in March. Now here's the real kicker. It would be cool if I had a model to work with down there. Yes...that means it will be cold and you'd be naked. Not all the time. But definitely for 3 main locations and then opportunity shots that present themselves. It will involve multi-day hiking through Tierra del Fuego and Torres del Paine. In addition to that, I have one other location in mind that I'll keep to myself for the moment, but it'll take a bit to get to and could be slightly arduous, but will make for some great shots.

Ajiaco, a hearty soup
I wonder about 3 things down there. One, making reservations. From my initial research, I hear you can't just expect to show up. You must plan well in advance. I have to figure out what that means in more specific detail. Two, I need to refit. I have clothing that I'd wear to the beach and tropical climates right now. Down there, even in the fall, I'm going to need cold weather clothing AND camping gear. Three... CAMERA GEAR! I am fairly certain I have to get some fast glass. The Sony 24mm 1.4 is on my mind right now, due to its lighter weight and more versatility over the Sigma 20mm 1.4. The Sigma is less money, but its heavier and you can't use filters on it. On top of that, I think the Sony 24-105 f/4 would serve me better than my 16-35 f/4. I'm not keeping tow of 4 lenses! (I also have the Sony 55mm 1.8. I'm not going anywhere without THAT!) So, one would have to go. Three is the max. Hell, I'd even consider medium-format if I could swing it. Yo...FUJI!!

Bogota Beer Company! Good eating!

After I'm done with all that down there, I'd make my way up north again through Chile and into Bolivia. Depending on what's going on with the Amazon River, I could re-try to do that again, but ultimately I'm going to make my way back here to Colombia. I very much would like to retrace my steps that I took in Northern Colombia (September) WITH a model. I'd add to it, the 5-day hike to the Lost City since it was closed during all of September. I love Colombia. Bogota is the first capital city that I really came to adore. I have not had the best time in any capital city I've ever been in. I had no expectations for Bogota. I only booked 3 days here at the end of September and realized by day 2 that I had made a mistake in my expectation. This is why I decided to return here in November and spend at least a month here.

Well, that's all for now. More later.

Long walk looking for a Duncan Donut shop one morning. 

29 November 2018

What Exactly is a Hostel?

One of my favorite spots in Leon Nicaragua, Hostel La Tortuga Booluda
on a 3 month Central American trip with my, then girlfriend, Tracie, Spring 2015.
Is there a difference between a hostel and a hotel? Yep. There's a difference. Hostels are one thing and Hotels are another. That being said, you still come across some that are both. They usually start out solely as a hostel, then open more locations, but are able to maintain an "upscale" hotel feel at each new location, but keep a hostel vibe. Selina is a good example of this. I've hit them in Cartagena, Bogota, I'll miss them in Quito, but see them in Lima, Peru and La Paz, Bolivia.

I don't think I have to spend a lot of time telling you what a hotel is. If you've never stayed in a hotel... well, write me off line and we can talk. For the rest of you, you already know what you are getting. Not all are the same, of course. Big difference between a Hilton and a Motel 6, but you know you want something private, safe, clean, and affordable.

Isla Verde, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala 
Here's the thing with Hostels

Hostels are not the backpacker's paradise with noisy dorm room accommodations; not all of them anyway. They do aim to cater to travelers, though and they are often much less expensive than a hotel. They are often a Mom and Pop enterprise who don't really get rich off their business, but they can have a comfortable living to say the least.

Here are the different hostels I've run into during my travels. I've done plenty. When Kristi and I set out during the month she was with me last Jan, I think we did close to 10. In 2015, my girlfriend, Tracie (in all these photos) and I traveled for 3 months. We hit about 20 places throughout 5 countries. I stayed at my first ever hostel in 2012, La Terreza in Antigua, Guatemala. I have been gone almost a year so far I've stayed in plenty, to say the least. Here's what I've run into during my research and travels.

Tracie at Chaltunha Hostel, Flores, Guatemala
Party Hostels
This is one of the top things people know about hostels. Party-time. And they do exist everywhere. You'll likely see a much younger European crowd. I avoid them! Nope, not doing it. They may have "Backpacker" somewhere in their name. There will be loud music. Not for me. I'd be out of place there. I'm old enough that I like my peace and quiet at this point in my life and I've had my fill of drinking games. Nonetheless, these tend to be a bit cheaper with a focus on dorms... $6 to $15 a night.

Boutique Hostels
If I see the term "boutique" in the title, I'm usually going to check it out. It depends on the theme of the place or what exactly they mean by boutique. I find these are a bit more pricey, but if you have a model with you, they can be interesting interiors to shoot in. There will be some attempt at interior design with a focus on an art, modern or antique themes, or some feng shui concept that may be be beneficial to your energy/spirit flow or whatever they call it.

Tracie at Chaltunha Hostel, Flores, Guatemala
For those concerned with the environment, Eco Hostels are they way to go. If they are not implementing solar power of some sort, they I don't think they can call themselves Eco anything. You may see them advertise a low carbon footprint, use organic, locally harvested materials and food, ask you to help with water conservation, etc. These will not usually be a budget place unless they also get you to help in their gardens or to do volunteer work with the locals.

Homestyle Hostels
Simply put, homestyle hostels will be virtually that... a hostel in someone's home. The owners may build on additional rooms or remodel a large house with several rooms into rental spaces. Chances are, they live on the premise. Prices will can range from down right cheap to the upper limits, probably no more than 5 rooms and some will need to share a bathroom down the hall.

Waking up at Paradise Cabins, Tobacco Caye, Belize
These are those that are going to be a little different than anything you'd come to expect and in some cases they may not call themselves hostels. Case in point... Island bungalows made of driftwood and recyclable materials. The term hostel doesn't lend itself to the unique island experience nor the inexpensive connotation that a hostel name may garner. Nonetheless, by definition, they are hostels and can usually charge much more. I've paid upwards of $100 a night and would gladly do it again.

Yeah...these hostels can usually provide a more complete experience with not only accommodations but a bar/restaurant, more private rooms, BETTER private rooms which usually mean larger with a view, and come closer to the hotel experience. Sometimes its just worth it. I've paid maybe $150 a night for the most expensive I've had the pleasure to visit.

If you can remember Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book", okay...or the several films based on his book, then you'll recall the most perfect analogy of the budget hostel. If you can "look for the BARE NECESSITIES, the simple BARE NECESSITIES and forget about your worries and your strife... that's why a bear can rest at ease with the simple bare necessities of life". If you can literally keep that mindset, you'll be fine and pay $100 for a week's stay someplace. I've done about $13 a night for a private room and private bathroom once in Xela, Guatemala.

Tracie, outdoor shower, Farm Peace and Love, Little Corn Island, Nicaragua 2015

So here are a few things you may have to compromise on.

1. Accommodations can be basic. Likely no TV!

2. It might be a bit noisy at times. Walls may be thin or there's a party hostel close by. Couples...keep that in mind! Just saying...

3. You may or may not have hot water...depending! In tropical areas you'll be grateful.

4. You may have to share a bathroom.

5. The wifi may suck.

Hostel Holistica, Antigua, Guatemala 2015
On the PLUS side

1. You're usually going to have a more personable experience. Yes, HOTELS can be experienced in hospitality with managers and staff being educated and trained. But how often do you get invited to the owner's kid's birthday. Or going to dinner at THEIR house and meeting the whole family.

2. You'll likely meet many more travelers from varies countries just like yourself with whom you can swap stories and experiences.

3. Hostels, in my opinion, tend to be more grateful that you chose them and thus will go out of their way to make sure your stay is comfortable, safe, and enjoyable. This has been my experience in particular where the owners are running the show and the staff is family.

4. You're going to save a ton of money that can go towards doing tours and experiences which is the reason for your visit anyway.

5. Personally, I think there are overall more stories, good and bad, that get rolled into your journey. Nobody returns home talking about hotel stays. But I can tell some hostel tales about a busted bed in Belize; bringing back an ineffective itch cream from the pharmacy, til Ismael advised me that it was made for vaginal itch in Guatemala; or being awoken at 6am by Dona Lucia for breakfast in the morning even though she knows you came in from drinking all night at 4am in Nicaragua.

Busted bed, Resort in Hickatee Cottages, near Punta Gorda, Belize.
Oh...never drink shower water no matter now nice the accommodations are!
In more cases than not, it's usually going to be what you make it. I listened to a chick at the front desk in Cartagena complain that there was a blond hair in her shower. She was pissed. Now me, I'm easy. I came across a tarantula in my shared bathroom. Yes, I screamed like my little niece, Courtnee when she sees a tiny spider. I did momentarily jump on the toilet seat. BUT, I took a second to compose myself. Walked up to the front and advised them of the situation. I didn't ask for my money back or demand to see the owner. I did insist they not kill the thing. We took it outside and released it.

Asleep at Chaltunha, Flores Guatemala after a full day
Just do your research. Read the reviews. Check the pics of the rooms. You'll be fine. As I mentioned in the last post, I do most of my research and reservations through Booking.com. I usually find everything I need there and have only had maybe 2 or 3 problems with a booking. To date, I'm just over 50 bookings. Stay as long as you want. I've been here in Bogota at Hostal La Candelaria for a month now and its costing me right at $500. That's just over $16 a night. The owners and I sit and talk every day. They help me with my Spanish. I help them with English. I get advice about the city of Bogota and Colombian culture and cuisine.

So what are your questions about hostels?

Labeha Drum Center Cabins, Excellent place, Hopkins, Belize
Another Big Fave, Hotel Anahuac, (its a hostel!) Juayua, El Salvador