Jose Fuster’s Fusterlandia

I’m not entirely sure where I first stumbled across Fusterlandia. It was most assuredly online somewhere, and immediately my interest was peaked. For a while now, I’ve been so intrigued by large scale, outdoor art spaces. Traveling the United States, I’ve been fortunate to encounter a number of them: Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain, Joe Minter’s African Village in America, Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden, Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers, to name a few.

Fusterlandia

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Primeras Impresiones de Cuba

For a passerby to accurately attempt to summarize Cuba would be fool hearted. It’s a complicated country with many layers that requires a deeper understanding of events current and past. “Why are things the way they are,” is a question that I often found myself asking. Why are there two currencies? Where are all of the advertisements? Why are all of the classic cars still in use? Why haven’t I been able to come here until now?

For most Americans, Cuba has been thought of as an unattainable destination that floats a mere 90 miles south of the United States. Undoubtedly this has enhanced its allure and luster, especially for the American traveler. With policy changes between the two countries, there is a misguided notion that one needs to come here before things change. What does that even mean? I am guilty of uttering this sentiment prior to departure, and I’m still better trying to understand it.

The idea of a switch being flipped in which things are suddenly Americanized, is a misstep of the American paradigm. With no doubt, the relationship between the two countries is storied, and things are in fact, changing. With recent and upcoming elections, things do feel in many ways, in a state of flux. What will happen in 5 years? 10 years? No one can say for certain.

You should visit Cuba not for the fear of missing out on a time gone by; rather, you should visit Cuba because it is a country that is in possession of a vibe unlike anywhere else. It’s a vibe that runs deep; in the people, in the landscape, and in the way of life. It’s something that has to be experienced first hand. The only crime being committed is not allowing yourself to arrive here sooner, rather than later.

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A reminder before departure.

What is it about those first steps onto soil that your feet have never met? That feeling of the familiar unknown, ever so distant in grasp. The rush of stimuli that overtakes your being; sounds, sights, smells. The moment of pause, when you realize that through a series of events, you have arrived; you are here.

For me, the vision of what a place might be is always slightly out of focus leading into a trip. It’s this abstract concept that floats around my mind. I can look at any number of guides, or photos, but it isn’t until I am there, that I begin to have the most neophyte of understandings as to where exactly I’ve landed.

It’s quite an intoxicating and disarming feeling to suddenly be immersed in a world much unlike your own. The experience lends itself to thoughts and ideas that otherwise remain inaccessible. Try hard as one might, these moments can not be replicated, or reproduced. When you find it, relish in it.

A reminder that through departure, arrival is granted.

Travel Ideas for 2017

Forever and always, I have travel ideas floating around in the furthest recesses of my mind. Sometimes they collect dust in a corner, sometimes they come to fruition with a bit of foresight. For most of us, the struggle is finding that proverbial sweet spot where the rivers of time and money coalesce, and we let their sweet brackish waters wash us over.

Someone once told me, that if you write something down, you are more apt to stay the course, and complete/accomplish it. In keeping with the whole, New Year, rebirth, phoenix rising from the ashes (I don’t think anything burnt down?), huzzah this year is going to be different mentality, I have compiled a list of destinations that have rattled through my mind at some point or another.

For those that are curious, here is my list from last year. And here are some of my personal highlights from what actually happened in 2016. It’s neat to look back, take a breath, and say, “Wow, that did happen.”

Enough staring at the clouds, let’s talk travel!

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Japan: Tokyo, Kyoto, Mt. Fuji, Osaka, Hiroshima

Somewhere in my mind, I’m able to return to that window seat on the Shinkansen. Gazing outward towards the countryside, I can still see it all, feel it all. Entire systems and a way of life, moving past me in haste. The understanding that I am but a visitor, passing through something that is much more complex than I will ever be able to comprehend.

With departure and distance, a certain perspective is granted. For some reason or another, despite thoroughly enjoying my visit to Japan, it’s taken me quite a while to sit down and revisit the brief sliver of time I spent there.

I’ve found myself frustrated in how to best describe the experience. So many of my favorite moments happened during the in between. The moments where the camera is no where to be found, and you are simply present. It’s an odd feeling to sense a moment slipping by, and the desire to capture is there, but something else says, wait, pause, savor this.

This concept does not bode well for the fledgling documenter, especially in an online world that is driven by visual stimuli. Sometimes it feels like a futile effort to take photos, as it will never entirely capture the true essence of what is there. With that said, I continue to try. I encourage you to visit Japan.

Tokyo

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A Year Spent in Motion: 2016.

As this whole passing of time thing continues its unfaltering march towards infinity, I figured why not take a minute to reflect on what all has happened this year. A little notch made on the metaphysical tree bark, if you will, that perhaps some future version of myself might one day find curious.January – Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, TX – Fledgling memories with a new troop of troubadours.February – Rialto Beach – Forks, WA – If I was looking for powerful, I found it.

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Hiking Mt. Fuji’s Yoshida Trail

Prior to booking my ticket to Japan, I had no desire to hike to the top of Mt. Fuji. I had seen photos of it on travel programs, thought the snowy peak looked quite nice from the comforts of my warm abode with functioning amenities, but never really thought to myself, “I need to be on top of that.” Proximity sure is a son of a bitch.

Once I realized where the mountain was, and the seemingly smallish effort it would require to attain this summit, the seed had been planted. There was no turning back. “I enjoy hiking,” I thought to myself. This will certainly be a grand way to spend two days in Japan. Travel and outdoor adventure. What a perfect pairing of things I enjoy! Oh, even better, the hike is rated as moderate. In hindsight, this statement does contain a smidgen of accuracy when looked at through a glass full of vision distorting oil.

Hiking path on Mt. Fuji's Yoshida Trail.

Mist covers the volcanic rock of Mt. Fuji.

My journey began leaving out of Tokyo. Feeling a bit citied out, I found myself on a train bound for Kawaguchiko, where I could catch a bus up to the 5th station to begin my hike. It was my first train ride of any sizable distance, and I was enjoying being able to utilize my JR Pass for the first time, and watch unfamiliar countryside zip by. I had checked the weather report before departure, and I knew that there was a chance of encountering rain. Approaching the mountain, this chance imperceptibly morphed into a gray certainty of hovering precipitation. It was going to be a wet day for walk up a mountain.

Arriving at the 5th station, there was already limited visibility. Having condemned myself to lugging boots and a heavy jacket around for this specific endeavor, there was no way I was going to back out of this. I prepared my gear, worriedly purchased water (did I have enough?!), and bid adieu to the dry warren of the station buildings. Helllloooo, Mt. Fuji!

A cornucopia of volcanic colors.

Aside from the moisture, I didn’t think the beginnings of the hike were all that bad. In a way, the mist and rain was pleasant (I told myself), because I became so scorchingly hot inside the shell of my jacket from labored physical activity. Watching people pass in the opposite direction, I wondered what they knew, that I didn’t.

I opted to hike up the Yoshida trail, which by and large is the most popular trek. I had arranged for overnight accommodations at a mountain hut at the 8th station. Leaving around 3:00p, my only goal was to arrive before sundown, which thankfully I did. That’s where things kind of began to take a turn.

Vantage point from the 8th station mountain hut.

In my mind, once I reached the 8th station, I had 30 minutes left beyond that to make it to the summit. All of the articles I read talk about staying overnight to acclimatize, and give yourself a rest and warm meal, in order to pleasantly continue to the summit to watch sunrise. Arriving to my hut around 5:30p, I was proud of what I had accomplished; albeit, a bit soggy. I had found my lodging despite rain and language barriers, and I was able to watch the shadow of Mt. Fuji grow against the horizon as the sun went down. When double checking what time I needed to leave in the morning to catch sunrise, I was told 1:30am. Wait.

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A brief reprieve.

I do not fully understand how my mind works when it comes to creative endeavors; specifically writing. In my professional life, I spend hours drafting messages, formulating responses, and delivering output in a rather timely fashion (generally speaking).

When it comes to writing for myself, in private, this too is done without hesitation. Whatever comes to me, comes to me. I scribble it down, and along life moves. For whatever reason, when the moment arrives to sit and share something publicly, the words clam up, and the flow desists. I’ve been told that the best way to combat this is to simply write. I suppose I’m making an effort at that now. Not thinking too much, and merrily scribbling along whatever comes to mind.

I find myself at home between tours, with a smidgen of time to dedicate to myself. I am privileged in the sense that I am paid to travel the world, in a role I enjoy, all the while being accompanied by some of the most badass people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. My role is full on when I am gone on a tour, and I am on 24/7. There isn’t really off time. It’s not something I’m upset about, but I do find it difficult to make time for personal projects.

It’s easy to use a busy schedule as a cop out. I tend to be hard on myself in this regard. I suppose that’s for the best, because when I feel that people are counting on me, the thought of letting them down eats at me. I am of the belief that this is a very healthy compulsion, but as of late, it has left me feeling a bit one-dimensional.

Reading, writing, and photography are some things I wish to spend more time with. I am not necessarily a withered leaf, as my life is rich in other ways, but I do feel myself craving these pursuits more so as of late. After a long day of being mentally engaged, sometimes it’s difficult to switch out of work mode, and delve into more of a playful, creative mood.

I believe both pursuits encourage and inhibit each other in ways that are perhaps imperceptible to the one trying to discern them. Finding a balance, or duality between the two is an ongoing challenge, but a necessary one.

Nashville Day Trip Ideas

In an effort to keep myself occupied while at home, I’ve compiled a list of a few day trips that are a bit more accessible while using Nashville as a jumping off point.

Kayak to the Islands of Percy Priest Lake

Luau Island, Percy Priest Lake.

Photo by Brandon Williams

I’ve been out to Percy Priest a number of times, but I’ve never been out on the water. Within sight from shore are a number of islands that in my mind would make for a great overnight trip. I’m curious what actual condition they are in given their accessibility and proximity to a major metropolitan area.

According to this website there are 38 islands located within Percy Priest. Doing a bit of research I learned that Percy Priest is a man made lake. The dam was completed in 1967 and the town of Old Jefferson got swallowed up when the reservoir began to fill. In some places the water is as deep as 100′ feet.

Kayaks are available to rent from Nashville Kayak Rental for $40 per day. Maybe there is an island out there similar to Isla de la Muñecas in Xochimilco. Thoughts of cliff jumping and pontoon boats also cloud my mind.

Bioluminescent Caves of Northern Alabama

Rumble Room in Rumbling Falls Cave.

Photo by Stephen Alvarez

It was brought to my attention that in New Zealand there are caves where a certain bioluminescent glow worm lives. Arguably not the easiest commute from Middle Tennessee, but upon talking with some friends I was informed that a distant cousin live in a cave located in Northern Alabama.

Dismal Canyon is where these buggers call home. Apparently the best time to view them is May – September. Moving beyond this, I’ve realized that there are a TON of caves to explore within a days drive of Nashville. I’ve never even considered exploring caves until recently. Something about the whole becoming trapped under the ground thing has been a turnoff. In typical fashion, I am actively deciding to look past spelunkings shortcomings and give it an ill-advised chance.

Rumble Room in Rumbling Falls Cave, Topless Dome in Tumbling Rock Cave, and Fantastic Pit in Ellison’s Cave are a few that peak my interest. Of course, I am grossly unqualified to attempt any of these, so perhaps I will endeavor to check out Mammoth Cave first.

Attend a Motorsporting Event

Bristol Motor Speedway

Photo by dpkimmel2001

On a recent flight, I watched the movie “The Last American Hero” starring Jeff Bridges. Junior Johnson got me thinking about the racetracks of the Southeast. I always remember watching NASCAR races with my Dad on Sunday, yet I have never actually been to a race, aside from a local dirt track close to where I grew up in North Carolina.

There would appear to be no shortage of racetracks one can access close to Nashville. There is the  Fairgrounds Speedway located in South Nashville, Music City Raceway in Goodlettsville, or Highland Rim in Greenbrier, TN. Not too far away are the big boys; Bristol Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Outdoor Art Environments

Mindfield

Photo by John Guider

In keeping with my pursuit of experiencing large scale structures built by lone ranger characters, there are two sites that I’d really like to visit sooner rather than later. They are the Fortress of Faith in Greenback, TN and the Mindfield Cemetery outside of Memphis, TN. To get a better idea of what I’m talking about, I suggest a visit to Spaces Archive. Within town, I’d also like to see what the Frist Center for Visual Art has on exhibit.

Have a solid day trip? I want to hear about it!

 

South Florida and The Keys

south-florida-and-the-keysMy first experience with South Florida came in 2012 while I was on my way to Peru. I had always wanted to see what Miami was like, so I booked a long layover and stayed in a hostel on South Beach. I will never forget it, because unknown to me at the time, my credit card information was stolen upon check in. Naturally, I wouldn’t find out until much later while I was in a very rural part of Peru, when I had no cash left, and the bank had locked down my card for fraud. Thanks, Miami!

My second experience would come via a music cruise leaving out of the Port of Miami. You know, one of those ones where they herd you in like cattle, and feed you the most delectable seafaring sodium logged blocks of food. Moooo-ve! There is something resembling a cheesecake to be had!

I thought it was high time to give this area a redemption visit. I hate writing off entire geographic regions based off of one or two shoddy experiences. I was in Orlando for work, so I decided to get a rental car and make the trek southward. I made a rough sketch of possible destinations (thank you, friends!) and off I went.

What is this place?

I didn’t know what to expect, prior to arriving in Miami. It’s one thing to spend time online researching a destination, it’s another thing entirely to be on the ground experiencing things first hand. As with many locations, my only frame of reference has been what I’ve seen on television and in movies. In my mind I was arriving to one giant yacht party, Tony Montana, and a plethora of guayabera shirts.

I ended up staying in the Little Haiti neighborhood, and it proved to be a great jumping off point for exploring the rest of town. Since I had a rental vehicle on this trip, I decided to drive around for the sake of driving around, in an effort to orient myself and get a feel for the neighborhoods. Little Haiti, Wynwood, Little Havana, Downtown Miami, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, Key Biscayne. Each one had such a unique feel, and I barely scratched the surface. The confluence of cultures is quite remarkable here, and each imparts its own particular flavor to the area. Miami felt both accessible and exclusive all at the same time.

Outside of the Perez Art Museum.Outside of the Perez Museum of Art.

Downtown Miami.I’ve never been attracted to the guise of opulence, but there is something so appealing about the way Miami does it.

miami-7-perez-museum-of-artExhibit inside the Perez.

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