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2017 VANS US Open of Surfing Review and Recap

August 12, 2017

US Open of Surfing

There is no longer a need to mention how the US Open of Surfing has changed since the 2013 riot (or does this count?) and how it has returned to its roots as an actual surf contest.

Here in 2017 the WSL together with VANS has established this event as what it should be, an internationally recognized sporting event, quite possibly a necessity in light of surfing being included in the 2020 Summer Olympics. Commentators such as Joe Turpel certainly referenced the fact on numerous occassions throughout the event.

The crowd was big (likely around the 300,000 spectator mark) but tame, preferring to spend their time on the beach and shopping in the makeshift VANS megastore as opposed to roaming the village looking for free swag (Red Bull and CLIF bars aside) and one-night stands.

Unsure if it was a success based on the assessment so far? The answer is a resounding YES, it was. The same sentiment was echoed by every surf shop owner, bartender, server, salty dog and sea maiden discussing the event each and every day up and down Main and PCH.

The waves prior to the final day (when the swell dropped off a bit) were certainly contest worthy, and allowed the men, women, and juniors to put on an exciting show for spectators, even with their careers on the line. The weather was so good in the final four days that it made you wonder if the same folks behind artificial wave technology have also been working on something to manipulate cumulonimbus clouds and marine layer.

The highlights? For one, the Surfer’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony, honoring 3 X World Champion Mick Fanning and Bethany Hamilton, one of the most inspiring professional athletes and people on the planet.

2017 US Open of Surfing Bethany Hamilton

But of course, the main event was the main event, with 10,000 World Qualifying Series (WQS) points on the line for the men and 10,000 World Championship Tour (WCT) points for the women. It did not disappoint. 

Relative local (Ventura County) Sage Erickson ousted last year’s champ Tatiana Weston Webb (Kauai) to take the women’s title within the final minute of their heat, winning the crowd over with her beaming smile and infectiously positive energy. Many of those in proximity of her post-heat interview on the beach got choked up (including yours truly) when her father parted the sea of people while boasting “That’s my daughter!” en route to give her a congratulatory bear hug. 

Sage Erickson US Open of Surfing

But what really got the beach buzzing was Huntington Beach born Kanoa Igarashi, who survived a dramatic and somewhat controversial (but legit) semifinal against event favorite Felipe Toledo, who was hit with an interference call (cutting his top score in half) at the very start of the event during a paddle battle with Igarashi. Kanoa zipped through to the finals against Tomas Hermes (Brazil). Although it took over 20 minutes to catch his first wave, he did so in a dominating fashion, scoring a 9.63 and backing it up with second score to seal the deal on his inevitable fate as a US Open of Surfing champion, as every HB grown pro-surfer should (i.e. Brett Simpson).

The crowd lost its mind, even those who had no idea what they were watching unfold. For all of the athlete accolades, something greater was accomplished at this event. Its continued success further validated the activity as a sport that is not only worth inclusion in the Summer Olympics, but one that will undoubtedly become one of the most popular, if the US Open is of any indication. 

So, without further adieu and witty conclusion (just assume I said something accordingly) let’s take a look at the highlights of the 2017 US Open of Surfing.

2017 US Open of Surfing Sandcastle

The VANS US Open of Surfing sandcastle has become an annual village landmark

2017 us open of surfing courtney conlogue

HB local Courtney Conlogue was all smiles and shakas after a strong showing 

Coco Ho US Open of Surfing

An always glowing Coco Ho making her way out to her heat

US Open of Surfing

Tatiana Weston Webb brightening up the early AM scene on the final day

2017 US Opening of Surfing

International pride was on full display, with Costa Rica putting together a strong showing in and out of the water

2017 US Open of Surfing Fans

2017 US Open of Surfing Fans

Felipe Toledo and Evan Geiselman spending some time with the fans (groms) after coming in from the surf

2017 US Open of Surfing Tatiana Weston Webb

Tatiana Weston Webb showing off some US Open hardware

2017 US Open of Surfing Pat Gudauskas

VANS brand ambassador and "Positive Vibe Warrior" Pat Gudauskas throwing us a shaka

2017 US Open of Surfing

2017 US Opening of Surfing Champions

Our 2017 US Open of Surfing champs

2017 US Open of Surfing Duke Kahanamoku

Aloha from our island's own Duke Kahanamoku (on Main & PCH) - 'til next year!

(Note: All images are property of YAHglobal.com and may be shared only with linked attribution to this page)

Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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2016 VANS US Open of Surfing Review and Recap

August 16, 2016

It's been one week since the 2016 US Open of Surfing concluded. It takes time to comb through and compile over a week's worth of photos, interviews (read: surf shop gossip at HSS over Java Point coffee) and notes. The consensus? The US Open has changed.

What was once the biggest show on sand has become a bite-sized version of its former self. And that's a good thing.

With each passing year since the 2013 riot, the show has become more of a surf contest. Seems like a redundant thing to say about the World Surf League's 6-star World Qualifying Series event, but anyone who attended the US Open between 2005 and 2013 knows what I'm talking about. If not, Google each year and see for yourself. Promo girls in string bikinis, fashion shows, alternative rock concert stages, motocross backflips, Red Bull skydivers, swag, and lots of testosterone. Surfing fit somewhere in there, but no one is sure where.

In 2014 the foot came off the gas as VANS took control to return the event to its saltwater roots. In 2015 families realized that their tots could come to the event without over exposure to implanted tatas and FTW tattoos. In 2016 FAMILY was stamped on the backs of event tees. The US Open isn't gangsta' anymore. Good.

To be honest, I was concerned that the crowd reduction I witnessed this year could threaten the future of the event for Huntington Beach. What was once 750,000 attendees strong has dropped down to the 300,000 range. Would this satisfy the higher-ups at VANS? Enter surf shop gossip factoids.

According to management at Huntington Surf & Sport, VANS reported that while official event village attendance was down significantly, on-site product sales were up, providing them with the perfect balance of brand exposure and hard sales. No security concerns, no fires, no bad wrap. Not bad at all. Public perception is positive too. Search the #usopenofsurfing hashtag on Instagram and see for yourself what people saw and had to say.

The US Open of Surfing surf contest will be back and better than ever in 2017. See you there. Bring the kids.

2016 US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach Tatiana Weston Webb

Winner of the all-Hawaiian Women's final, Tatiana Weston Wabb (above), being chaired up after her win over Malia Manuel (pictured below)

2016 US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach

2016 US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach Stephanie Gilmore

With great talent and ever greater sportsmanship the women, Stephanie Gilmore (above) included, ruled the competitive side of the event 

US Open of Surfing - Kainoa Igarashi

Local hero Kainoa Igarashi put together a strong showing with a semi-final finish

US Open of Surfing Strider Wasilewski

World Surf League's Strider Wasilewski running to keep up with the competitors

US Open of Surfing Hall of Fame Induction

Event festivities are also found off the beach, including the Surfers Hall of Fame induction ceremony at HSS on Main and PCH

Stay tuned. More pics to come!

Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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2015 VANS US Open of Surfing Review and Recap

October 01, 2015

Eavesdropping from the second floor of Java Point will tell you everything you need to know about the 2015 US Open of Surfing. For five straight days following the event I sat up there, 20 oz mocha in hand, inconspicuously listening to the 6 AM dawn patrol crowd spill in to chat with the shopkeep about what they did or did not miss. Most of them had returned from a weekend pilgrimage, a tradition for many locals looking to escape the event that turns their beloved beach town into a circus. They inquired about the affair, looking for validation for fleeing the scene. The consensus from across the counter of both the cafe and retail space shared within Huntington Surf & Sport was the same - it was pleasantly quiet. As quiet as any event drawing 700,000 spectators can be, that is.

I may be repeating my US Open wrap-up from 2014, a year after the riot, because the mayhem of 2013 still looms over the World Surf League (WSL), even though it has been 730 days since VANS took over and calmed things down. But the fact is, the US Open of Surfing has changed. For the better? As far as the locals and visitors with families are concerned - a resounding YES.  

This year, I thought I’d let the pictures do the talking. Keep scrolling for a peek at not just the 2015 US Open of Surfing, but a prediction of what this event will look like for the near years to come.

VANS US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach

The crowds, and branded umbrellas, were out in full force for the final weekend of the event. No elbow room on the pier and as the AM turned into the afternoon there was no place to lay your beach towel.

VANS let it be known that 2015 was a family affair, and Disney got in on the action. They contributed with this quiver display outside of the VANS retail tent.

VANS US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach

The Samsung tent was a big draw. US Open village attendees lined up to try on the VR head gear, hop on topsy turvy surfboard decks, and ride virtual barrels. Once done, fans got to share their experience on their favorite social network and receive some Samsung swag in return.

US Open of Surfing Koralac Backpack

US Open of Surfing 2015 mascots? Not quite. One of the more eye-catching promos on site was the Koraloc Surfboard Carrying Backpack system.

VANS US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach

Beachfront photographers snapping yet another (and another) pic of competition favorite Felipe Toledo doing another (and another) air reverse. In the end, the redundancy cost him in the semis. Instead, Japan's Hiroto Ohhara won the event. His excitement yet humble demeanor was infectious as the crowd of 500,000+ congratulated Hiroto with open arms. 

US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach Police Horse

Nothing to see here folks. The Huntington Beach Police Department, on horseback, kept a tight lid on the shenanigans without impeding upon the good natured good times of the event.

The day after. We'll see you at the 2016 US Open of Surfing.

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2014 US Open of Surfing Review and Recap - The Year After the Riot

August 10, 2014

VANS covering the 2014 US Open of Surfing

It's been exactly one week since the conclusion of 2014 US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach. A few years ago I may have had to explain to you what this event was all about but ever since NIKE got involved under the guise of action sport brand Hurley (which they quietly acquired) back in 2009 it has become a major destination event for the entire world. Fans of surfing, extreme sports, beaches, and bikinis alike all mark their calendars for the biggest shoreline spectacle since Noah loaded up the Ark. Except, this year was different.

In 2013 CNN lit up the screen with scenes from the evening that wrapped up the final day of the US Open. Depicted were mobs of ne'er-do-wellers from Reseda, Riverside, and other inland slouches where the youth don't know how to act when they get near saltwater. Something must be in the chlorine of their parents' backyard swimming pool. Rabble rousers became rioters, windows were smashed, fires were started, teenage girls egged it on, and social media blazed as imbecelic participants posted their antics which ultimately resulted in their own arrests. What was deemed the greatest outdoor party EVER hours before was decimated the minute the first local business was violated. Don't f**k with Huntington Beach. Because when you do, you change the game.

Within days the City of Huntington Beach and current sponsor VANS stood up and declared they were taking away our toys. For the near future there would be no more concert stage, fewer vendors, far fewer scantily-clad testosterone-boosting promo girls, and an overall smaller event site. The main focus for the US Open of Surfing for 2014 and beyond? Surfing. What a whimsical idea.

Locals and local businesses applauded the quick declaration and VANS was informally awarded Good Samaritan status for not sulking about the lost opportunity of mass brand exposure. As the months toward this summer approached we all wondered what the US Open would bring in 2014.

I arrived in-person for the final weekend of the event after spending the last five days watching the live-streaming webcast, eying for a hint. I could already tell things were different before I touched down at LAX. Some of the big names, the superstars from the previous five years, were no-shows and excuses were doled out accordingly. Schedules conflicted, babies were being born, rehab rumors circulated, and Kelly Slater had a sore shoulder (sustained while wake surfing on Instagram just days before the event?). As our Cadillac sedan rounded onto PCH through Seal Beach to Sunset Beach our driver remarked on the unexpected lack of traffic as we passed Warner Avenue with ease. The size of the stadium ahead reflected the reduced traffic flow. Normally the event area spanned close enough to make the walk from the Hilton Waterfront Resort to the site of no consequence but as we pulled in front of the valet I realized I'd have an extra few minutes to ponder before I stepped into the epicenter. Yep, things were different.

Morning Sickness at the 2014 US Open of Surfing

My seat in the media tent gave me a front row view of the action, in the water. For the first time in years I didn't have to position myself in the AM around a beehive surface of beach umbrellas to see the competitors paddle out. On the way to check-in on Friday morning I was even able to stop and chat with Kolohe Andino. Kolohe is currently ranked #9 on the ASP World Tour but number one as a heartthrob in the eyes of Orange County teenage girls, and their moms. Inexplicably his blonde locks were not being swarmed by anyone other than me and my prying questions. It made me wonder how his corporate sponsors, Target and Red Bull, felt about this downsizing in athlete/brand exposure. They're coughing up seven figures a year to see this kid mobbed by their target demographic. It's no surprise after all that other big names were absent on the competitor board. Their sponsors often insist upon attendance at the US Open but perhaps this year they didn't want to risk the limbs of their prime athletes in a non-WCT event if the consumer payoff didn't justify it. Was the US Open of Surfing about to be buried in the sand? Not quite.

Kolohe Andino at the US Open of Surfing

The morning sickness gradually wore off as Saturday arrived. The marine layer of clouds lifted and crowds eventually rolled in as if they were at the prom, waiting from the sidelines until the dance floor began to fill. The skate and BMX bowls swelled with an audience as extreme athletes stole mainstream interest from the surf while purist wave watchers took their bird's eye position on the pier. Fan focus was segregated and focused but that's what made it special, more intimate for enthusiasts. The event village was expectedly packed with inland teens looking for free swag, boys that think opening with "what's up baby?" still works on girls, and the girls that it actually still works on. They wandered around as prepubescent zombies, complaining that "last year was so much better". PCH bus stops between Main Street and Beach BLVD were packed by 3PM as they called the day early, dejected. The City of Huntington Beach, VANS, and locals smirked that their plan worked. Welcome to the US Open of Surfing, now go back to the Valley.

Saturday night's bar hopping scene between Fred's, Hurricanes, Baja Sharkeez, and Beachfront 301 was all that of-age US Open partygoers could hope for. The Huntington Beach Police Department made their presence felt, checking Slurpee cups for the scent of vodka and riding around on horseback as bannermen for HBPD. It concluded peacefully around 1AM in time for everyone to pop a few Advil, knock out some z's, and awake in time to do the walk of shame home before catching the final day's heats. Hundreds of thousands of spectators returned right on queue to send the US Open off right, ensuring that social media photos evidenced nothing less than a successful event.

The inconsequential waves didn't matter. The void in top level pros (mens) giving way to braggadocios Brazilian dominance of the event didn't bother the Aussie or Americans. Local hero Brett Simpson folding terribly in the semis was taken with good sportsmanship. Even the exciting women's WCT contingent in 2014 will remain an afterthought to the one factor that would determine the fate of the US Open of Surfing - the lack of incident.

The 2014 US Open of Surfing was a quiet success. Will it call for a return to the concert stage, Red Bull parachuting antics, and promo girls toting bags oozing with swag? After another year of the same in 2015 I believe it will. Will there ever be a riot again? Possibly, but not for at least a decade. It takes a generation or two to forget the consequences. Remember 1986?. If it does occur it will have nothing to do with surfing, action sports, or the beautiful people of Orange County. This is country full of restless youth and a few bad seeds will always cave against the urge to break a window. Fool Huntington Beach once? Shame on the rioters. Fool Huntington Beach Twice? Shame on them. A third time, in the distant future? Surf City USA may very well dole out its own brand of north side parking lot justice if that happens.

See you in HB, next year.

2014 US Open of Surfing Saturday Afternoon

2014 US Open of Surfing Main Street Crowd

2014 US Open of Surfing Main Street Crowd

Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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Best Place to Buy a Ukulele in Hawaii

February 22, 2014

Best Place to Buy a Ukulele on Each of the Four Main Hawaiian Islands

Vintage Ukuleles - Hawaii

It's practically mandatory that you buy a ukulele on your first trip to one of the Hawaiian Islands. As a souvenir it makes more sense than a 3-pack of Dole Pineapples or chocolate covered macadamia nuts as the experience is less fleeting. There is no other purchase that can immediately transport your senses back to the islands than that of the ukulele. Run the back of your index finger tip down the G, C, E, A chords and you'll be smelling plumeria in seconds. However, too often malahine* end up with one of those ABC Store assembly line models with strings that unravel after one strum session, not that it would ever have been in tune in the first place.

Look at your ukulele purchase as an investment. In many ways it is, especially if you buy a local luthier crafted koa wood model that will appreciate in material value if kept in mint condition (koa is rare and indigenous to Hawaii). But fiscal matters aside, a carefully selected ukulele is a treasure and a beautiful reminder of your time in Hawaii, whether your instrument came with a $99 or $1999 price tag. For the newcomer unsure of the best fit for their next ukulele purchase the following list details the best place to buy a ukulele on each of the four main Hawaiian islands - Oahu, Maui, Big Island, and Kauai.

Ukulele PuaPua - Oahu

Ukulele PuaPau in Sheraton Waikiki Royal Hawaiian

PuaPua is right smack in the middle of the Waikiki Beach bustle. While it may seem that sending you to a ukulele shop in tourist trap ground zero is a little inauthentic such a thing couldn't be further from the truth. The convenient stores (Kalakaua Avenue and within the Sheraton Waikiki Royal Hawaiian) are the most welcoming on the island, with staff that exudes unparalleled aloha spirit. You never once feel out of place in this happy little ukulele shop and browsing is absolutely encouraged. They even offer free daily ukulele classes which play out like an improv comedy show from time to time, depending on the crowd. Read more on PuaPua Ukulele.

Honorable mention: Haleiwa Surf 'n Sea - This North Shore surf shop is also home to the coolest limited edition ukuleles on the island - Haleiwa Ukuleles.

Mele Ukulele Mele Ukulele - Maui

Mele Ukulele Maui

This tiny box like ukulele shop in Wailuku is the kind of local business you want to support. It's a bonus that they carry some of the best locally made ukuleles on the island, including the only two-holed ukulele we've come across, a design that allows for a more amplified experience. You may be staying in Lahaina or Kihei surrounded by shops vying for your ukulele dollars but take a road trip to Wailuku first before making this important decision. Read more on Mele Ukulele.

Holu'aloa Ukulele Gallery - Big Island

Holu'aloa Ukulele Gallery

This one falls under the most unique ukulele "purchase" experience around AND makes you one of the most deserving strummers to own a custom ukulele. That's because this custom model is molded from your very own hands! You'll need to slot in some extra vacation time to pull this one off as this ukulele building course spans 10 days, seven hours a day. You're basically paying to go to work for a week and a half. However the rewarding feeling of completing and taking ownership of a ukulele crafted by your own saw dusted fingers cannot be described. This is an experience of a lifetime and is officially marked as the best way to get a ukulele, in the world. Read more on Holu'aloa Ukulele Gallery.

Scotty's Music - Kauai

Scotty's Music - Kauai

This list concludes with a trip to the Garden Isle of Kauai where ukulele hunters will need to head over to Kalaheo on Kauai's southern side. There along Kaumualii Highway you will find Scotty's Music. While this shop has a significant collection of varying instruments than the above mentioned stores they have the largest selection of ukuleles on the island, even claiming to own the same title over the world (yet to be determined). They have every right to boast of their expansive collection yet there is not an ounce of pretension in this ukulele haven. Visitors are welcomed with open arms to gander the inventory which without question has a ukulele option for those of any skill level, interest, and budget. Read more on Scotty's Music.

Do you have a favorite ukulele shop that you feel truly deserves to take the top spot for one of the above island choices? Shoot us an email to editor@YAHglobal.com with the details or sign-in with Facebook to leave a comment below. We'd be more than happy to pay them a visit, enjoy a strum, a conversation, and perhaps walk out with yet another addition to our growing office collection.

*Malahine - newcomer/visitor

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Kaimuki Honolulu - Hype vs Reality on Waialae Avenue

January 26, 2014

Crack Seed Store Kaimuki

In the span of about 30 days or so I had read numerous praises for Kaimuki Honolulu's Waialae Avenue as the new go-to destination for dining and boutique shopping on Oahu. It had to be new I thought, because the main drag through Kaimuki that I had known for so many years previous was only worth a visit if you happened to be passing through the neighborhood to Kahala Mall. But there had to be something to these rumors. Notably, Waialae Avenue had been heralded in my most recent subscription arrival of Hawaii Magazine which was coincidentally backed up by the in-flight periodical en-route back to Oahu days later. Then as I slumped my carry-on bag on the coffee table of the condo that I had just checked-in to the visitor guide book I leafed through detailed Kaimuki's Waialea as if it was the SoHo of Oahu. The consistency of the signals had me scribble a quick trip to Kaimuki into my immediate itinerary, to see something I had clearly missed on past passes.

The next day, just as I told the cabbie to keep the change, I asked him if this was indeed the same stretch of Waialea that had Town and Salt on it - two of the most talked about eateries on the row. He shook his head affirmative and I stepped out, perhaps wondering if I should have told him to keep the meter running and wait. With a line of sun rusted blocks that could easily pass for East Main Street in Stockton California, #Waialea_Avenue will not be a popular hashtag on Instagram anytime soon unless represented in the #urbandecay category.

Coffee Talk Kaimuiki

Reviewers of the strip like to mention the old Crack Seed shop that still stands on Koko Head Avenue - a gateway to the neighborhood should you be arriving from the south shore. While it's great to see this old local business survive the years and gain support from visitors for their Li Hing Mui dipped gummies and similarly flavored ICEE slush, it offers little else you can't find at the Whole Foods down the road or in Chinatown, outside of nostalgia. Leaving this landmark munching on a souvenir and onto Waialea I reached Coffee Talk Coffee House, a pop-culture conscious beanery cafe. Their delicious double shot espresso mocha woke me from my post-surf slumber and had me soaking up an atmosphere I only thought existed in the Pacific Northwest. Rejuvenated I continued on my mission to see what all the fuss over the new Kaimuki was about.

Waialae Avenue Eateries Kaimuki

I realized I had already passed the SALT, Kitchen & Tasting Bar, an upscale "all the rage" contemporary eatery from Executive Chef Quinten Frye that defies the scorched landscape of Kaimuki. On a strip of real estate that could be visually improved by the addition of an Arby's it's not only a surprise that a three-course sitting in this neighborhood can consist of pork & lobster pierogi, hearts of palm salad, cast iron roasted jidori chicken and a bottle of $200 Macchiole, it's downright absurd. The same can be said about Owner/Chef Ed Kenney's locally sourced Town a few doors down, where you can open your pocket books and devour an exquisitely prepared leg of lamb, green lentils, mohala escarole, radish, w/mint yogurt for 26 bucks. The accolades of these two restaurants are no urban legend and thus Waialea Avenue deserves your footprints for off-the-grid fine dining on Oahu.

Town Kaimuki

The next hour of exploration however included watching a game of pick-up basketball on the steaming concrete court of Kaimuki Community Park, donating pocket money to a fundraiser outside of Sacred Hearts Academy, grabbing a bottle of water at Times Supermarket, and u-turning on Waialea back towards where I was delivered to this curious neighborhood. "Boutique shopping" by the definition that visitors understand is a myth on Waialea Avenue, unless you count comics and anime collectibles. The pastries, smoothies, and wraps that dominate the remaining food and beverage options on the strip honestly offer nothing you can't find in either direction of the zip code.

The only photographic subject I pondered was the old abandoned Queen Theater decaying on the corner of Center Road, with its rusted yellow broken neon sign indicating a neighborhood that "once was". Eying Salt and Town across the street I couldn't help but think that if restored, the eight decades old Queen Theater could serve as the perfect house to host the Honolulu International Film Festival, with patrons spilling out afterwards for a late night of fine dining and drinks. Perhaps the travel periodicals singing the praises of Kaimuki and Waialea know something I don't? Perhaps Kaimuki is truly on the verge of revitalization and I should be jumping on board to stake my claim now as someone "in the know"? But alas it would be an injustice to send visitors to Waialea Avenue for anything more than coffee, dinner, and crack seed. I will however place it on my "Neighborhoods to Watch" list because I am certain that one day indeed Kaimuki will become exactly what everyone wants it to be. Just not today.

Queen Theater Kaimuki

Note: To show your support for the revitalization of the Queen Theater, and ultimately Waialae Avenue, visit Friends of the Queen Theater.

Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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Alternative Travel Guide

June 09, 2013

Alternative Travel Guide

It's been awhile since I've chimed into the blog section of YAHglobal. I've been on the road and up in the air updating content for our alternative travel guide. That's right - alternative.  From here on in that's the persona you can expect from YAHglobal. We're done with trying to keep up with the Joneses of online travel guides. Two years ago we mistakenly attempted to be too many things for too many people which ended up stunting our growth in this industry.

So what does "alternative" mean exactly? Don't worry, we're not rebranding to cater solely to travelers that consider skinny jeans functional for anything other than irony (but they're welcome to follow along). Instead we're simply narrowing our focus to feature unique activities, attractions, and foodie favorites throughout North America and the Hawaiian Islands. Our dining recommendations will focus on food trucks, comfort foods, and daring (yet delicious!) culinary treats with regional flare. The only "all-inlcusive" statements about our accommodations is that they adhere to a criteria that lends to the culture of the area instead of injecting a generic resort brand stamp where guests cannnot differentiate their property from one city to another. Our nightlife recommendations won't send you anywhere that requires a collared shirt or doorman palm greasing for entry. Our shopping section will gradually fill itself full of local businesses and marketplaces offering distinctive products and services that reflect the personality of the region. Our activity and attraction recommendations will likely send you outside of your comfort zone or at least make you view a destination in a whole new light, literally and figuratively.

Need examples? Cities like Portland or Santa Cruz - quite peculiar yet popular tourist destinations - will play an important part in our mainland presence. Our noticeable bias towards island life will remain as evidenced by our strict attention to continuously updating our Best Tiki Bars in America and Best Hawaiian Shave Ice in the World lists. On that note if you should find yourself on the "American" island chain where we maintain a satellite office we'll send you on a photo safari through the jungle or historic railroad tour before throwing you into the tourist traps of Hanauma Bay or Diamond Head crater. On the flip side we vow to not neglect your favorite mainland metropolises but don't be surprised if we direct your attention to New York retail operations that serve up espresso w/surfboard purchases and divert your taste buds from Manhattan Zagat selections to the Best Donut Shops instead.

Our recommendations will feel completely random at times but never predictable - the way your travels should be. Within the chaos we will establish a consistency so that from here on in YAHglobal will be your trusted alternative travel guide to North America and the Hawaiian Islands. 

Still not sure what to expect? Good, you're on the right track.

Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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Tourist or Traveler - You Are What You Eat

April 07, 2013

Tourist or Traveler - Dining for Travelers

If these look like the kind of places you dine at when traveling then you may very well be a traveler

Ask anyone about their vacation and they'll invariably tell you about what they ate. Food and travel go hand in hand. Culinary variety and the style of eateries from where it is served from can tell you more about a place than any guidebook. On the flip side, the dining choices made by anyone visiting a city, country, and/or island can tell you just as much about the person. It dictates whether they are a tourist, or a traveler.

There is nothing wrong with being a tourist, mind you. They've earned their hard earned seven to fourteen day stay at a beach front resort and have paid a lot of money for convenience and to not to have to make calculated decisions, especially when it comes to their three squares for the day.

If you've returned from Maui, for example, and responded to my inquiry by enthusiastically insisting that I absolutely must order the Grilled Chicken Marsala from Hard Rock Cafe Lahaina on my next trip then I know that you my friend are a tourist. I can then expect that the souvenir peaking out of the hibiscus decorated Polypropylene tote presented to me contains something from the ABC Store around the corner from your resort. It will stand admiringly within the top left hand corner of the cupboard space above my refrigerator along with the odds and ends Christmas decorations that couldn't quite squeeze into the storage room.

However, if you relentlessly pestered me to rent a dependable jeep and take the 5 hour trek from my stay on the west side of the island to a slithering Hana Highway for a single slice of Aunty Nita's banana bread and to enjoy it under the shade of the hieau like stand beside the Halfway to Hana store, I know that you my kindred spirit are a traveler.

If experience supersedes convenience when it comes to dining on your travels then you are on the right track to being one of the wanderers of the world. To be honest however, experience can bias our assessment of food. Is Aunty Nita’s banana bread absolutely and truly the best I have ever tasted? I want to say yes but I wouldn’t literally bet my taste buds on it. Does the five hour drive under the Maui sun make the reward sweeter? Does talking story with a delightful Aunty Nita on a slow day at Halfway to Hana make the crumbs more moist and the banana flavor more evident? Of course it does.

Travel is determined by the journey and not the destination. The same applies to the dining choices made on one’s travels. A sunset offers a better palate of orange, red, and purple hues when we’ve just hiked two hours to see it. That’s the reason why when narrating the slideshow to our friends back at home weeks later we find ourselves apologetically suggesting that the pictures do not do said sunset justice, no matter how many pixels our SLR captures. They could never comprehend what we saw unless they took the journey themselves. Food simply tastes better when we too have made the analogous (or literal) two hour hike to eat it. It’s the reason I don’t bother buying an entire loaf of Aunty Nita’s banana bread. Why ruin the sensation by eating it back at home or present it as an edible souvenir to friends only to explain that it tastes better back at mile marker 17? It doesn’t translate. I’d rather give them a map to the place instead and inspire them to make the trek themselves.

Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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Where do you dine when traveling?

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VANS Fills the Shoes as Sponsor of Best Sporting Event in America

February 07, 2013

VANS steps in to transform Huntington Beach California from this...

2013 US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach

...to this

2013 US Open of Surfing Huntington Beach

A text message came in to me at the office today from one of our contributors about the 2013 US Open of Surfing. VANS announced that they would be taking over title sponsorship of the greatest sporting event in America, filling the swooshing shoes previously worn by brand powerhouse team of Nike and Hurley.

I've written on how the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach (Orange County, CA) is the Greatest Sporting Event in America in the past so I won't repeat myself here. I know plenty of you traveling sports enthusiasts will beg to differ so please do refer to my previous article on the matter to state your case. I’m always open to seeing things in a new light.

Instead of rehashing, I just want to touch on how I believe that VANS stepping in to take title over the event will be good for both the city of Huntington Beach and for those of you joining the other three quarters of a million or so visitors on the golden sands of Orange County to partake in the affair that is so much more than a surf contest.

VANS likely won't have the financial backing to throw the same heavyweight spectacle that Nike had for the three years previous. Nike went so far as to convert the old $60/night Huntington Surf Inn motel into its very own branded attraction, which today has left the motel for the better as one of the most sought after boutique accommodations along a very lengthy strip of Pacific Coast Highway.

What VANS will bring back to the event is a set of core values that the massive success of the US Open of Surfing was built upon. With all the bells & whistles that Nike brought came a slight pessimism from some locals (and visitors) that felt the soul of the event was tarnished by big corporate influence. Many will say Nike made the event better for the athletes (bigger pay day) and the visitors. Others (non-athletes) will say the opposite, especially the locals. But I doubt that this debate will maintain through the VANS reign over the US Open. VANS is a California born action sports brand. They’ve been so since the beginning and maintain their cred today. They’re also the lead sponsor of the Triple Crown of Surfing on Oahu so it goes without saying that VANS knows surfing. VANS brings edge back to the US Open and as far as this writer is concerned that’s the only thing that was missing from the event in recent time.

Be sure to join me and the YAHglobal crew in Huntington Beach (likely at the Sun n Sands Motel) this coming summer of 2013. The event will be better than ever, even though likely not bigger – just the way most of us like it.

Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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Save The Tiki

January 10, 2013

Waldorf Hotel Tiki Bar

I was about to release a more spirited blog post about 2013 travel plans today when I caught wind of the unfortunate closing of the historic Waldorf Hotel & Tiki Bar in Vancouver BC. On January 20th, 2013 the iconic hotel is being closed by developers. In about two years or so I expect residents will see condos or some other eye sore in its place - Vancouver is not known for creating architectural aesthetic wonders. If it was it would be easier to swallow this pill in anticipation of an “improved” skyline. I’m no enemy of progress by any means but as most of you, I too believe in protecting important landmarks, especially ones that people still frequent in droves. On any given weekend in Vancouver a line can be found in front of the Walkdorf Hotel, waiting in the rain to get into its toasty warm Tiki Bar to see whichever traveling band has made its way onto the basement stage or to simply sip from coconuts while surrounded by bamboo under the cover of a starlight dotted ceiling. In a nightlife scene full of pretension, the crowd mingling at the Waldorf Hotel Tiki Bar is the most pleasant I’ve come across in the city – the Polynesian décor drips aloha onto anyone that passes through its doors. When I happen to venture into town on my travels I am certain to pay the Waldorf Tiki Bar a visit, even with the overpriced cover charge and drink menu because I am paying for the experience – and that’s priceless.

The Vancouver public is no slouch when it comes to getting in an uproar over such matters and as anticipated a petition to save the Waldorf Hotel is gaining momentum. From my understanding the sale has already gone through (correct me if I’m wrong) so there may be no recourse but if the city deems it a historical landmark there may very well be salvation for what many, including myself, consider to be one of the Best Tiki Bars in America.

Visit the Waldorf Hotel Tiki Bar page and/or follow the link to sign the petition to save the Waldorf Hotel & Tiki Bar

Wish You Were Here – Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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Gift Guide for Travelers 2012

November 24, 2012

It's that time of the year and shoppers are out in full force checking items off of their Christmas lists. Our 2012 Gift Guide for Travelers is short and sweet this year, no mentions of useless travel neck pillows or recycling items from last year by adding a "4" or "5" or "mini" to the equation. Advertisers have not paid to have these items endorsed either. Instead, we simply picked 5 gift ideas that we felt could add to the experience of the traveler in your life - no matter who they are.

For the Apple that Doesn't Fall Far from the Traveler

Olloclip Quick-Connect Lens Solution for iPhone

Olloclip Quick-Connect Lens Solution for iPhone $69

These days an iPhone can make a far better photographic travel companion for those that prefer to be unencumbered by awkward camera gear and to be honest we've scrapped many professional equipment induced photos of our travels for impromptu images taken from our smartphones that somehow captured the moment better than "set up" shots. However many have been frustrated by the iPhone's inability to log those special moments that are further out of our eye's reach such as a surfer descending down the face of a ferocious winter swell wave many yards away from our sandy position on the North Shore of Oahu or a cascading snowboarder returning from the snow kissed mountaintop at Whistler Blackcomb. The Olloclip Quick-Connect Lens Solution for iPhone fills that void by allowing for fast attachement and setting to nail that perfect shot far away while maintaining the quality you've become accustomed to. Olloclip.   

For the Luxury Traveler

Louis Vuitton City Guides

Louis Vuitton City Guides $33

Old fashioned hardcopy guidebooks can never truly be replaced by online travel guides, and this is coming from an online travel guide. There's just something to be said for being able to hold that bound copy in your hands when on your travels but at the same time some of the more image conscious traveling fashionistas and fashionisters balk at the prospect of flipping through a Frommer's or Fodor's or God forbid Michelin (as in Michelin Man) guidebook. Enter the Louis Vuitton City Guide - a fashionable LV marked guidebook available for renowned tourist destinations. Before your radar goes off against pretension remember that Louis Vuitton got its start well over a century ago in making high quality travel trunks and leather goods made to withstand all sorts of overseas adventures. Don't let the 5th Avenue Barbies ruin this eye catching and durable city guide book for you - Louis Vuitton makes a quality guidebook perfect for fashion forward travelers tired of kicking back in foreign coffee shops with bent cornered, weather stained publishings that don't stand the same test of time of its well traveled reader. Louis Vuitton.     
 

For the Tipsy Traveler

VinniBag Wine Transporter

VinniBag Wine Transporter $28

Your next trip to wine country should include this essential prized bottle of wine transporter so as to avert potential in-transit catastrophies that could leave your luggage contents coated with red Château Lafite-Rothschild - what a waste. Of wine. The VinniBag, sounding more like the moniker of a mob enforcer, in our opinion offers far better protection than the more popular WineSkin found hanging in the liquor section of airport duty-free shops. VinniBag.

For the Out of Bounds Traveler

Wenger Swiss Army Portable Solar Charger

Wenger Swiss Army Portable Solar Charger $180

Wenger of Swiss Army fame has introduced a potential life saver with its portable and extremely bendable solar charger. This flexible solar paneled creation can attach to the visible side of your backpack on any expedition and within a few hours can fully charge your defunct smartphone in the event of an emergency or if you simply need to check-in with your friends or family back at home. We'll be adding this to our supplies on our next 11 mile trek along the Kalalau Trail to the NaPali coast. Wenger North America

For the Really Out of Bounds Ski Bum or Bunny

Zeal Optics Z3 Transcend GPS Goggles

Zeal Optics Z3 Transcend GPS Goggles $549.95

From an Anti-Fog Infused Lens Process to an Integrated Recon MOD GPS System to an In-goggle view-finder that displays your stats via 16:9 widescreen, you couldn't Google a better pair of goggles in our opinion. The Zeal Optics Z3 Transcend GPS Goggles are perfect for the hardcore ski bum or bunny that wants no part of the beginner or bunny hill. These goggles are for off-piste adventurists, snowcat drop-offs, heli-skiiing psychopaths and hellcats. Sometimes the even best need rescuing and the integrated GPS system of the Zeal Optics Z3 Transcend GPS Goggles offers a lost and found option that loved ones will appreciate, plus they just look really, really cool - apres ski club wear anyone? Zeal Optics.

For the Traveler that Likes to Make a Statement at Baggage Claim

Divina Denuevo Luggage Tags

Divina Denuevo Luggage Tags $16

Divina Denuevo literally means “Divine Again". Divine, or Divinity, is the state of things that come from a supernatural power. In our experience nothing makes us feel more "connected" to that power (no matter the name or face you place on "it") than travel. Make a statement and catch the eye of everyone at baggage claim who still use neon toned shoelaces to identify their luggage by showing off your distressed leather Divina Denuevo Luggage Tags - complete with pressed in travel adventure quotes from the incomparable poetic likes of Emerson or Tolkien. Divina Denuevo.

Divina Denuevo Luggage Tags

Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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Keeping It Weird

November 16, 2012

Keep Portland Weird

I've visited the city of Portland Oregon on more occasions than I can count in my early youth. I was a bit of a Greyhound bus enthusiast that would hit the road up and down the coast visiting beach towns and hole in the wall zip codes that connected the bigger cities. During layovers I would wander around Old Town Portland to grab snacks and kill time but my still adolescent eyes remained unimpressed by the Late Victorian architecture and vintage shops. Each experience was shrugged off with the nary a care attitude that could only be impressed by shiny objects - neon signs, waves, bikinis, laser discs. That kind of thing.

Recently we visited Portland for a quick assignment to add it to our online travel guide. After sifting through countless images, notes, and anecdotes from contributors I have to say in my adolescent ignorance that I missed the boat on what may very well be the hippest city in North America depending of course on your definition of "hip".

Portland's unofficial slogan is "Keep Portland Weird". First time travelers to Portland may wonder why this text is painted on the red brick wall of Old Town and found on half peeled bumper stickers of aged VW's commuting regularity along Burnside. Is it a compliment? Spend enough time in Portland and you'll soon find out why it's referred to as weird. Where else will you find an old high school converted into a hotel/bar that uses classrooms for suites and also keeps a movie theater in the gymnasium which serves beer to patrons laying about on sofas watching fresh-run releases and art house cinema? Portland also has an inordinate number of world class donut shops with one in particular that may or may not serve voodoo cursed pastries. Even something as common as a city aquarium offers up a twist in Portland by allowing visitors to spend the night with hammerhead sharks gliding by inches away behind sheets of plexiglass. How you ever dreamed of eating world class grilled cheese while seated on the second tier of a double decker bus that's been converted into an eatery? Portland's got that too. Tiki Bars? Yep. But no night out on the town can start right without first getting an ala carte hairdo at a local chain of coed barbershops that serve beer and behave more like tattoo parlors. Do I need to mention the 24hr Church of Elvis? All of the above of course wouldn't be possible without support from the most eclectic population you'll find congregated in one place. The crazier the better because the people of Portland are some of the friendliest we've met. Keep Portland Weird? Indeed.

Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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A Fisheye Has No Memory

October 06, 2012

Seychelles seen through fisheye lens

Your view of the world is distorted when always seen through a lens

There's a problem I've developed over the years and if my random browsing through the social networks of fellow wanderers can tell me anything, I'm not alone. I used to travel encumbered by equipment. A simple backpack stuffed with a rolled up beach towel, bottled water, a couple of protein bars, a book, and a journal. Sometimes a camera would be found at the bottom but all it did was collect sand in its crevices, coming out only if something especially shocking crossed my path and even then the images would sit idle on the device's internal memory, never making it to my laptop much less a social sharing network.

Those days of travel are very clear. I remember every intricate detail - the way one particular wave swelled, curled, then pitched as I sat on the dawn dimmed sand during a winter swell on Oahu's North Shore - the abstract swamp green hues of the shell of a honu that popped up every few minutes of an hour as if to make sure my kayaking expedition along a wind swept NaPali Coast went without a hitch - the yellowed eyes and jutting rib cage of half starved oxen blocking the burgandy Range Rover on a cobbled road to Milk River in Jamaica - the smile on a certain 2 year old's face when she saw Pacific Northwest snowfall for the first time. Barring old age senility those images will remain sharp in my mind and attached to an entire sensory experience for the rest of my life. Because I didn't have a camera with me.

But now, in my pocket I have the newest smartphone with a touch screen interface that looks more like Tetris - blocked full of colorful cubes indicating every photo and video editing app you can imagine. In my backpack is a Canon, a lens, a waterproof camera, a waterproof instant YouTube uploading video camera, SD cards, and batteries. I'm ready for anything and because of that fact I'll see nothing.

I don't refer to Murphy's Law of photography where the best photographic opportunities happen without a camera in sight. For an amateur I have to say I've captured some National Geographic worthy (not really) moments on digital. I have a knack for being in the right places at the right times. I'd have great cocktail party banter if I could actually recall half of it. Do they allow slide shows instead? The problem you see, is now that I'm locked and loaded with photo and video 24/7 I spend too much time seeing things through a fisheye and not my own. I'm obsessed with capturing every little thing that I deem to be interesting. I'm building and incomprehensible database of travel photos to account for any editorial project that may come my way. Even a plate of food presented to my table doesn't stand a chance. I have more photos of sashimi than any teenage Japanese girl on vacation in Waikiki - minus the two fingered peace signs. Then there's the personal curation - InstagramPostagram, Pinterest, Viddy. Now, when that perfect wave begins to build on the horizon, the honu pokes it head out towards my paddle, the wild animal challenges my path, or that 2 year old (now 5) sees something new, I'm busy fumbling to choose the right camera and adjust the settings to match the light. In doing so I've blocked my periphery from attaching the other senses of sound, scent, and touch to the moment. While I've collected galleries upon galleries of images that have made others exclaim that it made them feel like they were there, I confess I cannot say the same. And I was there.

In five days my bags will be packed for another island brimming with photo opps and on arrival my three month early New Year's resolution will kick in - every other day of the trip the equipment will stay at the hotel. I'm already uncomfortable with the notion that I'll likely miss a Haley's Comet passing over the Northern Lights during a blue moon moment but even if I do, I'll be able to say I truly experienced it with all of my senses in tact. I may not have any photos to share with you here or to enter into National Geographic's next photo essay, but I'll have  something that I can keep for myself, for old times sake. You should too.


Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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Protecting the Reef from an Unexpected Predator

September 29, 2012

Protect the Reef with Eco-Friendly Sunscreen

If you’ve snorkelled Hanauma BayMolokini CraterBora Bora Reef Discovery or other popular reef exploration destinations then you've probably been told by tour guides and protective locals to avoid stepping on or touching the reef, not so much to avoid being punctured by sharp coral (a deterrent nonetheless) but for the sake of the reef itself. However, aside from physical touches, you may be bringing other elements into the ecosystem that have a less visible or immediate but even more damaging impact - your sunscreen. While protecting yourself from the sun’s UV rays you’re inadvertently harming the coral reef by injecting chemical laden lotions into the ocean, creating a toxic soup mix that will gradually wear away on the sensitive reef over the years. Multiply that fact by the millions of lathered up souls that enter the ocean everyday and we've got an ecological crisis on our hands. Think I'm exaggerating? I'm certainly no marine biologist or a microfiche catalogue of environmental facts so instead of just taking my word for it please check out this National Geographic article regarding reef damaging sunscreen for validation.

Now I'm not usually one for using this travel blog forum to stand on a soapbox and preach but seeing as we spend a lot of time at YAHglobal pointing you towards some of the best ocean activities in America the math is simply too clear to ignore folks. We (dedicated travelers) each spend thousands of dollars a year to fly off and enjoy underwater sites of the Caribbean and North/South Pacific that put the most obnoxious Dubai hotel aquariums to shame. In doing so, we are harming the very thing we spend a small middle-income fortune to see. For a few extra bucks we should bypass the $4.99 tube of Coppertone and ask our local drug store if they carry chemical free ocean safe sunscreen alternatives. If not, we can order it online in advance of our next trip to visit our favorite Atlantis.

It's the small things that makes the biggest difference for our friends under the sea and seeing as they - Whale Sharks to Clown Fish - have given us so much by just being there, one small purchase to protect their home is nothing to ask. Don't you think your future kids should have the opportunity to find their own un-pixelated Nemo one day? Yeah, I went there. Soapbox adjourned.

Please check out these reef safe sunscreens before your next trip to dip your toes into the ocean:

Raw Elements

Tropical Seas

Badger Balm

Soleo Organics

Protect the Reef with Reef Safe Sunscreen 

Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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A Word To The Techie Traveler

September 15, 2012

I heard a cell phone ring out in the surf recently. I thought at first the sound may be the result of potential ear drum damage sustained from getting face slapped sideways by a rogue wave (read: wasn't paying attention) that caught me off guard earlier out at Queen's Reef in Waikiki. But I noticed the others bobbing up and down in the water turn their heads too as if we were all practicing some synchronized swimming routine for the next Olympics. Half way through the third ring the owner picked up, somewhat embarrassed but not embarrassed enough for someone bringing a cell phone out into the open ocean sans boat. Did I mention he was standing on a 12 foot (at least) soft-top stand-up paddle board? Did I need to? It was probably assumed.

Surfing while on cell phone - photo courtesy of Transworld Surf

If you can pull THIS off, then you'll be forgiven for bringing a smartphone into the surf

I cringed as did most of my eye rolling salt water bredren but then I remembered my most recent editorial contribution to a Best Travel Gear of 2012 list - the Catalyst Escape Capsule - a fully submersible waterproof iPhone skin. Oh god, I thought. What if by some minuscule chance THAT very piece sparked this guy's interest in a similar product resulting in the cardinal sin against fins before me. If not mine it was surely the work of some other well intentioned travel writer pushing to meet a deadline on the latest accessories for the wanderers of the world. I should have put a disclaimer stating that the product not be used in this circumstance. I thought it was implied?

I had to ask myself what I intended this product to be used for then. Resort swimming pool parties, sure. But for moments like this? Maybe his wife was due to have a baby at any moment but his dedication demanded he squeeze in a morning session nonetheless. Maybe an on-call heart surgeon doing the same? Both are admirable and would bring praise from the surrounding morning crew that want to chastise him at this very moment. Do we give him the benefit of the doubt? If in some way the work of a deadline pressed editor placed this product in the subject's hand then I say yes, OK?

Travel and technology have always had a complicated relationship. We travel, presumably, to escape the trappings of home and those trappings often include smartphones, computers, and other LCD screened contraptions we seek to disconnect from. But technology can also make travel better. It forces online suppliers (hotels, airlines, agencies) to offer lower prices. Climate proof equipment allows us to photograph, video, edit and post even the most extreme conditions and favorite moments while on the fly. It enables us to connect to the friends and loved ones we actually do want to stay in touch with while on the road or to better connect with those we meet traveling along the same. So where do we draw the line?

For me that line is bringing a cell phone into the surf (admirable aforementioned circumstances aside) . For others it's having headphones take you on a downloaded audio tour of a storied country side thus completely negating half of a sensory experience. Some renowned travel photographers still refuse to exclusively use digital. Many consider the act of bringing a laptop along on any trip enough to cancel out the experience all together - good for them.

Beach the Office OR Office at the Beach - photo courtesy of JohnnyVagabond.Com

If THIS is your office, then good for you - If THIS is your vacation, then not so good

The general rule of the traveler's technological thumb should go like this; if the tech toy of choice enhances your experience and better allows you to capture those indescribable moments to relive later when back at home then go for it. But if it distracts from the experience or impedes upon the space of others (a phone ringing in the surf) then leave it connected to the charger back at the hotel or hundreds of miles away on top of your entertainment center.

While everyone else in the line-up paddled away from the 12 foot stand-up paddle soft-top board cell phone guy I edged a little closer hoping to hear what was so important. No exciting news about contractions being 2 minutes apart. Whatever the conversation was it ended with a "yep, it works" and a hang up. Product test complete apparently. Maybe I'll catch up with him back up on the beach and get the model name and number for my next Travel Gear & Accessories piece, but this time with a disclaimer.


Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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The Traveler's Triathlon - The Road To Kona

August 26, 2012

Ironman Triathalon Kona 2012

The leeward side of the Big Island Hawaii momentarily loses its cool for one weekend in October every year. The  food truck grinds and slipper wear of Kailua Kona is replaced by scientifically timed carb loading and tight laced cross trainers as the Ironman World Championship swims, bikes, and runs its way through through town. You can't place an order at Kona Coffee Cafe off Ali'i Drive without waiting in line for 30 minutes - but it's worth it for the Donkey Balls. Forget about trying to navigate along Queen Ka'ahumanu highway on the day of the event. Residents park their cars while the competitors start their engines. They wait all year for this Triathlon and some competitors train their whole lives for this moment on the Big Island. Victory here makes you a true Ironman or Ironwoman, putting Tony Stark and his billion dollar toys to shame.

Ironman Triathalon Kona 2012

This weekend I had the privilege of attending a qualifier for Kona Hawaii's 2012 World Championship IronMan in a sleepy summer town in the Pacific Northwest well over 2000 miles from the Sandwich Islands. In the same manner that Kailua Village transforms from surf town to an arena for some of the planet's best endurance athletes Penticton (BC) too comes to lack in hotel vacancies. Fold out chairs, towels, and blankets line the beach in the evening but face the roads instead of the water in efforts to cheer on a friend, family member, co-worker or entire onslaught of singlet adorned triathletes whom from a helicopter resemble an army of ants trailing along the blistering concrete towards their queen - the finish line.

Ironman Triathalon Canada 2012

Athletes from all over the world converge upon the small desert town that barely registers on any traveler's periphery and turn it upside down. The locals may make off the cuff remarks about road closures and long lines but inside they adore this weekend as much as the competitors and will be the first to smile and pass on sincere well wishes to an athlete - given away by sinewy veined legs - standing next to them in line at the local coffee shop. Even though fellow residents who happen to be participating in the triathlon are cheered on more than the rest, this is no sporting event where the visiting "team" is considered to be the enemy for the town hosting the affair. Instead they're welcome into the fold out of respect and admiration. They're  tourists that pay their dues with the blood, sweat, and tears falling on the concrete of the town and thus have every right to clog up the streets, cafes, shops and hotels before and after the event concludes. With each stroke, peddle, and step they've earned a permanent place in the community and are welcomed back every year with open arms.

Ironman Triathalon Canada 2012

Sitting on the cafe patio sidelines and ironically sipping imported Kona coffee, I ponder if I'll ever devote an entire year or two of training to place one of these triathlons on my travel itinerary as a serious competitor. Shrugging I put it on my bucket list, wishing I had the Donkey Balls.

Ironman Triathalon Canada 2012

Ironman Triathalon Canada 2012Ironman Triathalon OHANAIronman Triathalon Canada 2012

Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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In Search of the Best Cafe Mocha in the World

August 22, 2012

Best Cafe Mocha in the World?

I checked 101 off the list after an especially "adventurous" weekend. 101 has a nice ring to it. Before anyone jumps to conclusions about the achievement as if it refers to some uncouth male braggadocio conquest I'll nip that dirty mind in the bud. Instead the tally refers to my espresso based beverage of choice and the fact that a few months ago I vowed to sample a Cafe Mocha from every coffee shop I come across in my travels until I find the best in North America. Considering I only allow myself the indulgence twice per week (vacation excluded) this mission may take some time. In fact, there won't be a concluding piece on the topic unless I have the foresight to write it as I prepare for my death bed one day. The Cafe Mochas of the World - a literal coffee table book for certain. It's a never ending journey though, one without a final destination. Perhaps my heirs will carry it on. Poor bastards.

If it sounds like I'm over romanticizing something so trivial as a creamy foamed blend of aromatic espresso and rich dark chocolate (the description alone defies you) and to potentially have it define my life's literary work on travel, please bear with me.

The first thing I do after awaking from my hotel room slumber for sunrise in a new town, city, island, or country is shuffle down through the lobby and out of the doors to seek the nearest non-chain cafe for a fix. I don't care if the ocean and air temp meets at a perfect 80 degrees fahrenheit with off shore winds, glassy surf and only two or three bikini clad souls in the water. I need my mocha first. I cradle the mug with the same gentle care taken with a newborn kitten and slide into the bistro seating to stare off into nothing-in-particular and sip. I'm never alone in this ritual. There are always three or four others engaged in the same, beating the post-dawn crowds to the setting. We're kindred spirits. We might exchange pleasantries about the weather, we may trade crumpled pages from the cafe's only newspaper, we may learn something about where one another is from and bask in the brief moments of peace before our families wake from the 11th floor of a 7 night packaged deal and make their way down with beach bags and towels slung around shoulders, or we may say nothing at all. But we understand. The catalyst is in the coffee.

In the same manner that I check the bottom of souvenirs pre-purchase for signs of the dreaded Made in China stamp I demand that my coffee is grown locally or at the very least imported from the nearest coffee bean sustaining climate within its radius. I want the callused hands (but fair trade paid) locals to have picked my bean. If I'm on the Big Island I want to sip Kona Mountain Coffee off the slopes of Mauna Loa from a cafe in the old plantation town of Kainaliu. In Jamaica I want Blue Mountain straight from the plantation after waking and walking down from a Penny Hill guest house near Mavis Bank. When in Rome. To me and a million others, morning brew from a local cafe is part of what defines a vacation destination. It sets the tone for where the rest of the day takes you.

While I won't be booking flights to locations based on their espresso any time soon it remains to be a part of my experience nonetheless. My last trip to the Caribbean didn't place one in my grasp until I awaited departure at the airport gate cafe 10 days after arriving and the trip still went without a hitch. Although I must admit it was a nice way to draw closure to my time on the island. Maybe the 7 hour flight back home wouldn't have went so well otherwise.

Best Cafe Mocha in the World?

A great way to start the day's travels

Best Cafe Mocha in the World?

It makes everything taste better

Best Cafe Mocha in the World?

It makes great books even greater, especially on a Sunday morning

Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

post by : Editor - YAH Yaps

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Greatest Sporting Event in North America

July 28, 2012

US Open of Surfing

The Greatest Sporting Event in North America - the 2012 US Open of Surfing - returns to Huntington Beach this week. If you didn't know that the US Open of Surfing was the Greatest Sporting Event in North America, you're not alone. However, all it takes is one visit to Huntington Beach between the last weekend of July and the first weekend of August (the span of the event), in particularly for the finals, and you'll be heralding its praises as I am here, even if you've never stepped a slippery foot on a waxed epoxy surface.

You see, the fact that surfing is a part of my lifestyle has nothing to do with my affection for this event. In fact, I'm not so sure SURFING has much to do with this event. OK, perhaps I'm being a little harsh in that second statement. Yes, there is some world class surfing by some of the world's best surfers going on at the Nike US Open of Surfing, but you can easily be on the beach in the event "village" for an entire weekend and completely forget to look out into the pacific to see wetsuit and contest singlet clad pros ripping the rippling beach break surrounding the HB Pier, much less hear the announcers commentating the event or witnessing acceptance speeches on the ocean front podium.

 US Open of Surfing

The distractions I refer to don't even involve the multitude of other action sporting displays taking place at the US Open such at the Converse Coastal Carnage skate comp, BMX and motocross exhibitions, parachuting arrivals of sponsored athletes, and whatever progressively insane Hurley brand stunt is pulling off (usually involving a jump off the pier) as each event progresses through the decade. There is so much more going on at the US Open that it almost defies description, but I'll try.

The village created on the beach spans a large portion of Huntington Beach's Pacific Coast Highway ocean view. The sand is compacted by massive tents, stadium seating, retail construction and kiosks, inflatable brand sponsored monstrosities (in a fun way), Titantrons, and planks placed everywhere to guide the over half a million spectators that converge on Huntington Beach throughout the week through the gauntlet of promotional activities. There are fashions shows, product demos, and a FREE live concert series with big name bands playing throughout the event. If you like SWAG (free stuff) then the US Open of Surfing is also for you. You can enter the village empty handed and walk out of there at day's end, bags in hand and looking like you just completed a shopping spree at Fashion Island, without the credit card debt.

US Open of Surfing Nike MotelUS Open of Surfing Promo Teams

There are spray-on tattoos and stickers on the bodies of everyone around you with an even greater number of real tattoos displayed on coconut oiled biceps, triceps, pecs, breasts, butts, backs and thighs. The US Open of Surfing is a feast for the eyes for guys and gals. But it's also a family affair as evidenced by kids perched on the weighted shoulders of dads, clutching on tight and enjoying a bird's eye view of the summertime spectacle while moms wonder why the hell they thought navigating a beach stroller through sand packed by thousands of flip flopped soles and souls would be possible.

US Open of Surfing Pier Crowd

The madness spills out across Pacific Coast Highway as the patient HBPD directs traffic to protect spectators dodging in and out of Main Street shops to nab US Open of Surfing gear to get signed by the stars and athletes seated at the tables lined up in front of Huntington Surf & Sport and Jack's Surfboards. There are equally long lines awaiting those looking for a bite to eat so arrive at the Sugar Shack Cafe around 6 AM to get your fuel for the day, otherwise you'll have to live off of the free Red Bull or RockStars being handed out on every corner until the sun sets and you get your name on the list at Fred's Mexican Cantina for dinner. The night sees Main Street packed until around 2AM so even if you and your party can't make it into Sharkeez or one of the other local watering holes, the bustling strip will keep your need for socializing and hookup hunting satiated.

US Open of Surfing Village

If you're still not sold on attending the US Open of Surfing, then good, there's barely a square foot of sand available for another pair of sandy toes anyways. Maybe next year. ;)

US Open of Surfing Kelly Slater Catching Air

Oh yeah, there's actually surfing at the US Open of Surfing

Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

2012 US Open of Surfing: July 28 to August 6

See also Greatest Moments in the US Open of Surfing

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Tis the Season for Beach Cruising

June 16, 2012

 Beach Cruiser - Park and Chill

 

Summertime is here, bringing lazy days in the sun and the shade. What better way to get to your favorite spot, be it the beach or the outdoor patio of your favorite cafe, than gliding along the gravel on a beach cruiser? Throw in a rolled up rainbow toned towel and a well worn novel with curled up cover edges into the handlebar basket or a surfboard racked like a sidecar companion on a Harley 45" and you've got the perfect recipe for a perfect day.

 

Beach Cruiser - photo courtesy of Favim.Com

 image courtesy of Favim.Com

 

The simple act of owning a beach cruiser calls for your whimsical side to come out at any given moment and I can safely declare that this two white walled wheeled travel companion is responsible for more than a few called-in "sick days" and skipped community college classes. It leans against your balcony rail or backyard fence and dares you to ignore it when the suns squeaks past the thinning morning haze or mountain top and whispers in your ear that the report sitting on the office desk or half written term paper saved on your hard drive can wait another day. Like the adorable family dog wagging its tail in anticipation of a walk to the park for a toss of the Frisbee, its lure is irresistible.

 

An early espresso or pink colored smoothie often accompanies the first leg of the ride. Many become experts of one handed navigation after the local cafe door chimes closed and you grip your take out cup of morning bliss towards your destination. Leers from cars and pedestrians who's eyes may otherwise shoot daggers at Vespas, Mountain bikes and other multi-geared contraptions that zig-zag passed them on road or sidewalk traffic can't help but get doughy eyed at the prospect that they too should be on the very same wanderlust.

 

The act of beach cruise wayfaring is often best done alone, left to one's own fanciful thoughts, but by no means is the entire act one of solitude. The destination is lined with like minded bodies who's cruisers congregate together locked safely to posts, slanted on palm tree stumps and under the watchful eye of the tribe. It's no competition - old cruisers are cherished for their vintage character and shiny new ones heralded for their efforts to keep the lifestyle relevant. Friendships are formed and first dates are born from the beach cruiser culture. Beach bonfires, ukulele strums, and surf sessions are completed by riders returning to their perch, sand crusted slippers kicking the kick stand, one landing on a pedal and the other pushing off the concrete to gain momentum towards it's home back on the balcony or backyard fence where it lays in wait to tempt you again tomorrow.

 

Beach Cruiser on display at Huntington Beach

Whatcha waitin' for? Hop on...

 

 

Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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Stop Looking and Just Listen for a Moment

May 12, 2012

 

The ocean is a good start, but there's more...

 

Hawai'i is the combined chirping purr of island doves and musical potpourri of ukulele, slack key guitar, and the hugging voice of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole whispering from hotels, gift shops, and cafes. Jamaica, contrary to popular assumption, does not sound like Bob Marley. It is a touch more intense with dancehall rhythms and short yet consistent car horn beeps over gravel peppered by moments of complete silence. Seattle is raindrops pitter patting on umbrellas with boat horns from the harbor drowning out the populous passing through the swinging doors of Starbucks on every corner. Southern California slides like a finger across a soundboard, beginning with an irate northern portion of Pacific Coast Highway where blasting convertible car stereos drown out loud blue tooth conversations that eventually mellow with each mile approaching the slopes of Laguna only to ignite again when echoing waves punch the shoreline until settling into chirps of seabirds at La Jolla. Miami is maracas and salsa remixed with uptempo voices in mid conversation unveiling indiscernible, yet attractive, accents. Manhattan is expectedly bustling with rustling shopping bags, briefcases snapping open and shut, espresso orders shouted out, high-heels and hard bottomed loafers tapping the concrete, and ring tones in sporadic symphony announcing plans of some sort.

 

These are just a few sound bites of places I know. While we primarily use sight transformed to photo galleries to translate our descriptions of a location, don't forget to stop and listen to what the destination tells you as well.

 

Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

post by : Editor - YAH Yaps

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The Coordinates

April 14, 2012

 

This is just a quick update to post YAHglobal.Com's first set of geocache coordinates. We've been playing around at the office with some great photo editing apps for travelers recently and in my personal continued effort to make things more difficult than they need to be, have utilized the magic of iPad techonolgy to present our treasure hunting followers with the coordinates to YAHglobal.Com's geocache. This number takes you within a few feet of the "package". You'll have to peek at the other clues to find the exact spot.

 

 

 

Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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Made You Look

March 31, 2012

 

Snow in Honolulu

 

Made you look? Well, perhaps some of you were hip to the whole April Fools gig, even if this post is reaching you after the fact. No, Honolulu didn’t experience a snow storm, although the weather there has been a bit wacky over the months. I write this from one of my offices (read: coffee shop) as Earth Hour approaches this side of the planet - one hour away precisely. The lights are off at my residence so I suppose I’m doing my part, even though I will most likely be typing away and posting this at around the same time (consuming energy) and I’m pretty sure the barista will still be pumping out espresso well into the night without interruption. She better be, I need a refill soon.


I wrote about this moment last year as well, noticing that not one light turned off while overlooking a city (a supposedly green city) I was in from the 22nd floor. My plan this time, was to take an elevator to some concrete peak once again and film the potential non-event and blog from a self righteous soap box immediately afterwards about how many talk the talk but don’t walk it. I changed plans and came here instead, opting to emit a little positive energy. That’s allowed during the Hour, right?


Throughout the day my MSN landing page (how do I change that?) has been showing me images and video of cities from all over the world powering down instantly after a New Years Eve-esque countdown and some of the sights and implications were pretty cool. As the altruistic, albeit clichéd, teacher of troubled youth exclaims “If I can save just one, then it was worth it”. So I’ll take that stance here - if we can save just one light bulb, it was worth it.


So while the attached headline of a snow covered Waikiki may have come at a convenient time for an April Fools prank, there is clearly a deeper message here - a Mai Tai just doesn’t taste the same in the cold, nor does a Hot Chocolate in the desert. If we want to preserve our personal paradises, wherever they may be, it’s time to pull out the unattached iPhone charging cords from the wall and trade gas guzzlers for two wheeled beach cruisers - life is better on a beach cruiser. That’s all the soap box action you’ll get from me today.

 

Wish You Were Here – Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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The Geocache Has Landed

March 24, 2012

 

Geocache Location

 

For those of you who have been waiting for another clue on the YAH Yaps! Travel Blog, your time has arrived. However, if you had been following our Twitter, Facebook, and/or Pinterest accounts you may already have been in possession of our first geocache as the first clues dropped on our Social Networks from the moment it was placed. iPhone apps (or Android, we suppose) make the nature of the game much easier than waiting days to return to a wifi enabled cafe, laptop in tow.

 

First of all, there has been a major change – location. No, we were not attempting to be über tricky in the dying minutes of its placement in an effort to thwart any potential “leaks” as to the whereabouts of the geocache. Instead, Mother Nature swept in and dealt a blow to the original plans, making any efforts to plant the goods in its intended home impossible. 8 foot waves, rip currents, and hail (in 75° weather?) slammed the usually calm waters surrounding the small island, making the necessary swim treacherous to say the least. Throw in the fact that two week’s worth of rain created enough mud on the high slopes of the atoll that any attempt to climb it would have left the remains of the geocache and one YAHglobal editor sprawled out on the sharp volcanic edges of its circumference.

 

However thrill seekers need not fret as the treasure hunt won’t find you poking through a shopping mall lost & found either. A back-up plan was already in place and our first geocache has found its relatively permanent home - as long as those that discover it play by the rules. The picture you see above, the one that shows a bunker that may or may not be the home of a serial killer, is where it lays. We’ve already had people guess incorrectly as for novice visitors to this island it appears to be a more popular tourist destination. That was our intention. It’s not there. There is a paved hike part of the way, then a small dirt trail, then nothing really to guide you up except for a few rocks, cacti, and uncomfortable terrain. I was able to accomplish the feat in flip flops, but it was a dumb idea.   

 

  Geocache at home  Looking up from the geocache

 

That’s all you get for now.

 

Check in on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest for more details.

 


Wish You Were Here – Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com       

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YAHglobal's Geocache - Clue #1 is here!

February 29, 2012

 

Our first official clue to YAHglobal.Com's geocache (launching next week) has arrived! This Google Maps Satellite image is of an island, somewhere. Some of you may recognize it at first glance. Others will be completely oblivious. I'll tell you this much - the island looks a lot harder to get to than it really is. However, once you reach the island, finding the geocache will take a lot of sweat and result in a few shin scrapes. Regardless of whether or not you find the "treasure", the view will be reward enough. Read the original article on geocaching and be sure to follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for daily clues and/or coordinates.

 

Mokoli'i Island, Oahu

 

Wish You Were Here - Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

post by : Editor - YAH Yaps

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Geocaching - Treasure Hunting Without Cashing In

February 19, 2012

 

One of many discovered geocaches - Ours coming soon!

 

It's one of those words you may have heard in passing, perhaps sounding too technical to pay attention to. You're missing out. Geocaching, a portmanteau (word combo) of geography (don't hold the grade school subject against it) and cache (a hiding place), is the ultimate travel game. If you're like me (God help you), then you’ve  shaken your head if you've ever crossed paths with those ridiculous local versions of The Amazing Race that take place in practically every major metropolitan city. These groups of hipster adventurers always appear during rush hour or some other inconvenient time with no regard for the cup of espresso you hold in hand as they hurriedly brush past you, knocking a drop or two on your brand new white loafers. That’s what you get for wearing white loafers. Geocaching, however, is the real deal in travel hide and seek.

 

To strip it down to the basics, geocaching starts with one traveler placing a travel log (small notebook and a pencil) and objects/trinkets of personal significance in some sort of weatherproof container and hidden within a geographic point of interest, tucked into a cave, crevice, under a rock, a tree, or buried in some shallow resting place that can be identified and uncovered with relative ease once pinpointed by the combination of a mobile GPS device, a bit of wit, and problem solving talents.

 

The travel log is meant to be signed by the finder as they would a guest book. Of course in current times, you can add social media notifications to that practice, but 2B lead should still touch parchment to count for anything. The trinkets can be traded out or added to, but not simply taken. The items are often regional identifiers. Seashells, small denominations of unique foreign currency, key chains, charms, PEZ dispensers, and photos are not uncommon ingredients. The container is then resealed and placed back in the exact location of origin for those on the same quest to find. There is a serious honor system in place here folks - a code of ethics among fellow geocachers. With well over one million officially logged geocaches in existence, the code seems to be working just fine.

 

The “reward” is not about what is found or traded. It is about the process. The location of the object is not meant to be found within a corner office file cabinet of the Empire State Building. It is supposed to take players to exotic locations that they may never have ventured to before. To scale peaks, swim seas, hike for miles, and to even spend weeks, months, or years in search of. People are planning whole vacations around the concept of geocaching.  It is treasure hunting with the hunt being the treasure.

 

So, with that being said, we at YAHglobal are going to start our own little geocache operation. In two weeks, yours truly is headed somewhere, and within our social media accounts we will provide the GPS coordinates and clues to the specific location. It won’t be easy to find, but it won’t be impossible. I can promise you that every geocache will take you somewhere you may never have reached before if there were not some unique incentive to do so, even if it is within your own geographic location.

 

You’ll need:

GPS enabled device (mobile phones should do fine if they have good range).
To Follow YAHglobal on Twitter
To Like YAHglobal on Facebook
To Follow YAHglobal on Pinterest

 

For those of you that either can’t wait for the games to begin, or need something closer to home, check out the official worldwide Geocaching website to start playing.

 

Wish You Were Here – Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

post by : Editor - YAH Yaps

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Flying Solo

January 23, 2012

 

 

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” – Mark Twain

 

One of the most extensive travelers of his time, Mr. Twain, knew what he was talking about when he dropped yet another timeless quote onto his journal for us throw around as morsels of wisdom at cocktail parties. As yet another one of my expeditions approach, friends come out of the woodwork inquiring about coming along for the ride (I get great discounts). I tend to ignore phone calls, emails, and texts during this process. I’ve learned my lesson. Mark Twain may have been generous in his observation, as if “love” or “hate” was a 50/50 shot. In my experience, nine times out of ten you end up contemplating leaving your vexing travel companion to fend for themselves at the bottom of the ocean as you surface early, pack in the scuba gear, raise anchor, and motor to shore. It isn’t a far swim anyways.

 

OK, so I’m being a bit facetious. While I have yet to strand a travel buddy to the mercy of tiger sharks, I have been known to sneak out of the hotel at the break of dawn without the slightest effort to make a wake-up call to my neighbors who lay in Mai Tai induced slumbers in adjoining rooms. Not for an espresso run mind you, but for full on excursions – a hike up a volcano crater, kayaking around a wave thrashed peninsula, paying homage to an important cultural site, or any other adventure that can be preferable in solace. I return from “me time” with a grin of anticipation that I’ll burst in on the laggard bunch to inquiries about what they missed and how they feel like buffoons from allowing a hang-over and lethargy keep them from soaking up every minute of the vacation experience. More often than not, however, they were blissfully unaware of my absence, assuming that I too was buried in my room with the curtains blocking the suns awakening rays. Defeated, I would suck it up and join them in them in the day’s subsequent adventures which usually resulted in parasailing, a moped rental, and ultimately back on a bar stool chatting with single career-moms in town for a convention. Really inspirational stuff.

 

I have another well traveled pal who on practically every occasion would abandon any “strenuous” activity – surfing, snorkeling, sunbathing – and head back, exhausted (from?),  to the hotel or nearest lounge half-way through. I would come back to find him with the A/C on full blast, watching grainy re-runs of Seinfeld. This guy has been all over the world, from Australia to Korea, Thailand to Prague, Cuba to Bermuda, and yet it has become clear that his mission is to find out if “the contest” episode is as funny when translated to other languages. I told another travel associate about our mutual friend’s aggravating quirk and he responded with a sympathetic snicker. A month later in yet another tropical hostel common area I would discover that his idea of exploration would be King of Queens.

 

I get that trips are supposed to be relaxing (depending on your perception of the concept) BUT when you do the exact same things on vacation as you do at home, then you might as well have saved the Air Miles and traded them in for a new 240hz LCD TV w/game console. Travel is about experiencing different cultures, cuisines, environments, and activities and all the other clichés I’m abashed to gush about here.

 

On the same token, regardless if your travel partners defy or apply to the above descriptions, the simple fact of bringing the comforts from home (friends) with you can saddle your potential to grow as a world traveler (if you fancy such a title). The definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. You do the math and tell me if you or anyone you know should win an all-inclusive trip to the nearest asylum for a permanent staycation.

 

While I wouldn’t recommend tackling a trek through the Amazon sans companionship, nor would I advise a single female on a journey to Hedonism Jamaica unless their definition of a good time involves an obese Greek male displaying an unbuttoned chest crop of hair and 14 carats, coaxing you into a liaison with his two sheets to the wind wife, you open up a world of experiences by booking one ticket. I would not have met 75% of the people, nor experienced the subsequent exploits, I have while traveling if I was encumbered by an entourage that made me less approachable, or less likely myself to seek out impromptu conversation on an airplane, shuttle, trail, or bobbing on a surfboard in the Pacific in a “line-up” with only one or two strangers out. Perhaps I’ll never know what George Costanza sounds like screaming “serenity now!” in Sudanese dialect, but I will know serenity actually is.   

 

Wish You Were Here – Marcus Maraih, Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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Inspiring and Thought Provoking Travel Quotes for the New Year

January 03, 2012

 

 

Compiling a list of quotes may seem like a cop out of an article from an editorial standpoint but in realizing that sometimes the words of others say it best, one remains humble in the epiphany that every word that they themselves conjures is not in fact some prolific symphony of phrases that will inspire others to do whatever the piece intended.

 

Perhaps the holiday season and accompanying taxi rides, airport shuttles, excessive baggage fees, and security queues forcing passengers to unwrap Christmas presents in front of preschool aged recipients to make sure that the Rock Star Mickey Mouse is in fact the Rock Star Mickey Mouse and NOT some threat to international airspace, has taken its toll on my usual aloofness to the challenges of travel and thus weighed heavy on my ability to pen an inspiring article to launch our followers into the New Year with enough vigor to get them out there and explore the world in spite of the impending credit card bills piled up from the weeks passed.

 

In turn, I personally sought some inspiration from the passages of others to jump start my own travel agenda of 2012 and thought I'd share them here with you. The following sentences not only serve to reignite the spark for globetrotting, but in fact make you feel downright guilty for spending the first few days of the New Year cleaning up your condo as a means to procrastinate whichever worthy resolutions you may have set for yourselves. Make a mess by digging up your favourite travel clothes and gear, toss them into the nearest carry-on bag, throw some caution to the proverbial wind, and go.

 

Inspiring and Thought Provoking Travel Quotes for the New Year

 

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

 

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes

 

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

 

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark

 

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

 

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.” – Robert Frost

 

“There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.” – Charles Dudley Warner

 

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” – Mark Twain

 

“Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.” – Paul Theroux

 

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag

 

“Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.” – Mohammed

 

“When one realizes that his life is worthless he either commits suicide or travels.” – Edward Dahlberg

 

“Most of my treasured memories of travel are recollections of sitting.” – Robert Thomas Allen

 

“What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do, 
especially in other people’s minds.
 When you’re traveling, you are what you are
 right there and then.
 People don’t have your past to hold against you.
 No yesterdays on the road.
” - William Least Heat Moon

 

“A person needs at intervals to separate from family and companions and go to new places. One must go without familiars in order to be open to influences, to change.” - Katharine Butler Hathaway

 

“I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself.” - James Baldwin

 

“I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine.” - Caskie Stinnett

 

“All the pathos and irony of leaving one’s youth behind is thus implicit in every joyous moment of travel: one knows that the first joy can never be recovered, and the wise traveler learns not to repeat successes but tries new places all the time.” - Paul Fussell

 

"Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen." - Benjamin Disraeli

 

“You lose sight of things… and when you travel, everything balances out.” - Daranna Gidel

 

"Walking ten thousand miles of the world is better than reading ten thousand scrolls." - Proverb (Chinese)

 

"When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money." - Susan Heller

 

"It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end." - Ursula K. LeGuin

 

"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

"Ah, if I had known this was my last time here I would have stayed a little longer - savored it a little more." - Mary Anne Radmacher Hershey

 

Wish You Were Here – Editor, YAHglobal.Com

post by : Editor - YAH Yaps

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2011 Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers

December 04, 2011

 

Between preparing for the launch of the next city on our network - Orlando, FL - and other day to day activities that keep this site somewhat worth visiting, I was getting concerned about finding time to update our Travel Blog. Compound that mess with personal responsibilities, specifically - Christmas shopping - and you've got a brain (mine) barely capable of forming a coherent, much less engaging, sentence. Then, as I was browsing fruitlessly for that perfect gift for an unpaid intern, through one of the umpteenth malls I have visited on my travels over the last few days, the topic dawned on me - 2011 Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers. Simple and necessary albeit industry typical for this time of the year, but when in doubt, go with the classics. Besides, it helps me kill two birds with one stone. Blog update - check. Christmas list - check.

 

  

Planet Earth Limited Edition Blu-Ray

 

For: Couch Surfer w/alot of time on their hands and a great TV

 

Planet Earth Limited Edition Blu Ray

 

This globe (earth) encased collection won't need to take up any space in your DVD stand and in fact looks pretty great sitting atop a desk, entertainment system, or shelving unit. Aesthetics aside, all you have to do is peel back the planet and you have access to the complete series of BBC's award winning nature project, filmed over 5 years, in 200 locations, and in 62 countries. Everything you can imagine about our natural world and its wildlife inhabitants is captured on Planet Earth. This is where the now famous and often repeated shot of a Great White Shark catapulting from the surface of the ocean and swallowing a seal whole was first found on film. There are moments of wonder, amazement, and as of course heartbreak. Try not to shed a tear for the baby elephant that loses its mother on passage through the Gobi Desert. Too late, that sentence alone does it. Where to buy: amazon.com 

 

 

ZOMM Wireless Leash

 

For: The Absent Minded Traveler

 

Zomm Wireless Leash

 

This wireless device could be considered the evolution of The Clapper key finder - for your phone. However The Clapper was only of use when you realized you left the keys (or whatever it was attached to) behind and ONLY if the item was within earshot (the fridge). The Zomm Wireless Leash however, is not for the lost and found, but for the find before you lose scenario. When attached to your Android or iPhone via an app download, the Zomm will belt out an obnoxious signal alarm as soon as you step outside of a set radius from your device. How many cell phones have been abandoned atop an airport Starbuck's or bathroom countertop upon the final boarding call for a flight or left behind in a dark hotel room when one departs for all day excursion? The Zomm ensures this will never happen again. The only catch? Don't keep you Zomm and Android/iPhone in the same place. Where to buy: zomm.com

 

  

A Week at the Airport - Alain Du Botton

 

For: Frequent Flyers on a first name basis w/customs officers and check-in personnel

 

Alain Du Botton's A Week at the Airport

 

If you've flown JetBlue out of JFK during the holidays then you already know what it's like to spend a week at the airport. Otherwise allow renowned travel writer Alain Du Botton to provide his true, witty and anecdote ridden accounting of a week spent at Heathrow Airport (London). Think The Terminal (Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta Jones - 2004) but without the nauseating "meet cutes". A Week at the Airport is the perfect pocket book for travelers to keep on hand while in long lines at customs, seated at gates, or in air. Where to buy: Borders (U.S.) Borders or Chapters/Indigo (Canada)

 

 

Vespa Scooter Retro Rocker

 

For: Hipster Toddlers

 

Vespa Retro-Rocker

 

Rocking horses may be a timeless present to be passed down through the generations but if you have visions of cobblestone road adventures on the streets of Venice for the toddler in your life, or at the very least picture them zipping through Greenwich Village with a rolled up screenplay in their back jean pocket, then it's best to put them on the path to Hipsterville now. The Vespa Scooter Retro-Rocker will have its new owner relegating playschool playmates with slam poetry in no time. Where to buy: Perpetual Kid

  

 

Point It Traveller's Language Kit

 

For: Lazy Backpackers (and UN staff) heading Overseas

 

Point It Traveller's Language Kit

 

Apparently this thing is required use for Swiss UN Surveyors who only have skiing down the slopes with ski bunnies/bums on their minds and no time to brush up on the basics of language in other countries. But we can't knock the simplicity of this page turning device that allows you to simply point and grunt when in need of bathroom (or a great espresso) ASAP. While a BOOK may seem antiquated in a day of wireless translation devices, it doesn't get much easier than the Point It Traveler's Language Kit when you stumble over the foreign pronunciations and accidentally insult the innocence of a Greek farmer's daughter when all you were asking for is the directions to the nearest Bed & Breakfast. Where to buy: amazon.com

 

Wish You Were Here - Editor, YAHglobal.Com

post by : Editor - YAH Yaps

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Greece - Riots in Ruins

November 10, 2011

 

Cartoon by expresso.pt courtesy of toonpool.com 

 

You can't turn on the TV or gloss over a global newspaper and not catch a story about Greece and its current state of economic despair. It makes our recession in North America look more like an off day at the Track. The phrase "You're money is no good here!" may actually become more than a slang expression - denoting either distaste or affection for a business's patrons - for our brethren in Athens. However, us overseas bargain hunters cannot help but guiltily ponder the possibility that a long overdue trip to Greece may be in store. Another country's bad press and economic ruin often mean one thing for the frugal flyer - a cheap vacation.

 

 

Greece, one of the most beautiful, historic and relevant countries in the world, rich in cuisine, culture, and charisma hasn't been torn apart like this since conflicting religion ripped down its idols heralding the praises of presumably false gods thousands of years ago. Zeus may not be pleased, but the fact of the matter is that cities like Athens, home to Acropolis, the Parthenon, and other ruins that remain to remind us of the mythology that once ruled this kingdom, is still a place that everyone should experience in their lifetime. Perhaps amidst the current chaos is the best time to pledge your support to a country that has given civilization so much, while taking advantage of the opportunity to see the place that eluded us for financial reasons for so long. But is a trip to Greece becoming the bargain we now assume it to be, or is that too a myth? Yes and no.

 

FLIGHTS - Flights are seeing a small to moderate price reduction for airlines that frequently fly to Athens. There may very well be route cancellations for smaller airlines with more to lose by not sending a packed plane across the pond, but otherwise the basic rule of working economics is serving to reduce prices somewhat significantly for those diligent in their fare hunting. Popular airlines that are offering deals to Greece from the U.S. include: Delta, Olympic, Continental, and US Airways. From Canada, Lufthansa is your best bet.

 

HOTELS - This is where the "Yes and no" really comes into play. Smaller, boutique establishments appear to be taking a clenched fist approach, attempting to squeeze as much as they possibly can from their "well-to-do" guests in order to stuff as much money under the mattress as they can fit. On that same token, last minute travelers simply have to call up the operators of these establishments to talk them down in price, even quoting the max you will pay for a night's stay. A general manager of a boutique operation will stare at the open occupancy manifest and often cave on the price knowing that a room sold is better than a room empty. On the flip side, better known budget friendly hotel chains, such as the Best Western have multiple locations in Greece and are dropping rates to keep occupancy levels up. You can stay minutes from Acropolis or the beach for $65/night (approximate U.S. and Canadian currency)! Another moderately priced and convenient hotel worth investigating is Hotel Plaka with rates available from $90/night.

 

CITY TRANSPORT - Things get tricky here. Strikes are popping up left and right. Shuttle services, city transit, and taxis may be no where to be found when things flare up. Whether it’s the city center of Athens or the ancient archeological sites, stay as close as you possibly can to the activities and attractions you came to Greece for to minimize days wasted on in-city travel. You'll also save money that way.

 

DINING, RETAIL, & ENTERTAINMENT - Activities and attractions aside, the other allures of the cities of Greece are well enough intact. Eateries, retail businesses, and discotheques continue to keep travelers from all over the world blissfully separated from the ills of the country, if one is so inclined. Service is at its best as business owners know that to get revenue flowing they need to go the extra mile for those that flew a few thousand miles to pay them a visit.

 

VERDICT - Yes, Greece is relatively cheaper than usual for travelers at this time, but we're far (eons) from second or third world prices folks. The Euro, while still in use, is still the Euro. Greece will never become Indonesia. But nothing shows support for a country in financial crisis and than putting money into the pockets of the local business owners that need it most. Yes, bask in frugality and save every dime you possibly can when booking your flight and hotel, but don't pinch Euros (while they still take them in Greece) when it comes to the small stuff. Our best advice? Do NOT book a vacation to Greece too far in advance. The uncertainty of the currency, looming strike threats in the travel service industry, and civil unrest can erupt or crumble at any given time, leaving those without proper travel insurance in the dust. Those with the freedom to take the trip on a moments notice will benefit the most. Follow deals daily on your favorite booking site or give your travel agent your "go" price and have a bag packed and ready to roll. Zeus awaits amidst the rubble, literal and figurative.

 

 

 

Wish You Were Here - Editor, YAHglobal.Com

post by : Editor - YAH Yaps

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AUTUMNatic Reason to Travel

November 01, 2011

 

 

Hit the road to somewhere that a sign like this is needed, and not used as irony, redundancy, or an attempt at humor

 

Hallmark would have us think that this time of the year is one filled with wonder. The leaves on the trees are turning the colors of pumpkins and squash, while pumpkins and squash find their way onto the centerpieces of dining room tables and bookending the welcome mats of doorsteps. Please excuse the pessimist here, but since everyone jumps into descriptors of spring time being one of birth and renewal, the flip side of the coin is that autumn is, well...the opposite. Death admittedly sounds a little harsh but that’s what happened to the crusty leaves that you’re stepping on en route to work or school. You can't have it both ways.

 

I love Halloween as much as the next person but it's all just a precursor to the main event holiday season of winter. Sure pumpkin spice espressos are tasty, but you can't tell me they're better than an Egg Nog latte or Peppermint Mocha. Autumn is just a waiting room, but instead of sitting there unsure if the news is good or bad, we're guaranteed a lifeline when winter kicks in. Weeks worth of holiday season events and entertainment await. Tree lighting ceremonies, Nutcracker performances, ice skating, Christmas day anticipation, Boxing Day shopping, New Year’s Eve planning, skiing, and snowboarding smile from the horizon. And then of course it's all happily downhill from there as spring fast approaches and of course, summer. We patiently wait while the clocks of October and November tick. Boring stuff.

 

Not too many people take vacations at this time of the year, gripping onto their disposable income for the aforementioned holiday season. But this downturn pattern in travel expenditure means one thing - cheap flights and even cheaper hotel stays. I was doing my due diligence before making this claim and found deals that could take you non-stop return from Canada to Kauai (arguably Hawaii's most exploration worthy island) for $368 AFTER taxes! The same reigned true for trips from various rain or sleet infested metropolitan locations in North America to tropical climates. Before you run to your nearest travel agent let me give you a frowned upon (by the industry) tip. Do the work (research, booking, etc…) on your own and you'll most likely find better rates than the quotes from coming from third parties. Deal directly with the airline and deal directly with the hotel and you will almost always get a better deal. Flights predominantly go on sale on Tuesdays and Wednesdays so check around midnight on those weekdays. Pick hotel options that suit your needs and see what their website is charging for specific dates and then compare them to discount hotel sites THEN pick up that antiquated reservation making device - your phone - and actually call the hotel to see if they can beat the quotes. At this time of the year, baring special events and conferences, they will almost always accommodate your requests. This is a method that works far more often than not. Sure it takes a little effort BUT if you are trying to save a buck or two to leave a cushion for the holiday season, it's worth it.

 

It's a crisp Tuesday morning as this article gets posted. Poke around online and see what deals you can find to fast forward yourself out of the pumpkin patch and into a palm tree slung hammock. If you already live somewhere where the latter is more applicable, expect company.    

 

Wish You Were Here - Editor, YAHglobal.Com

post by : Editor - YAH Yaps

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The Kahala Hotel & Resort - The Accidental Guest

September 08, 2011

 

*The following is a not-quite promotional piece (you'll see) and not one of the standard articles found here in "YAH Yaps!". Nevertheless it still follows our mission to inspire you to get out there and discover, even if it's an impromptu walk through the nearest luxury resort near you.

 

 The Kahala Hotel & Resort - Copywrite YAHglobal.Com

 

I admittedly came upon The Kahala Hotel & Resort for the first time not from some prestigious editorial invite to tour the property nor was I in attendance at one of many weddings held on its gorgeous and gazebo laden grounds. Instead I simply stumbled upon this 5 star resort by accident.


Let's strip the glamor factor even further by admitting that the discovery started while on The Bus - Honolulu's public transit system. I was on an impromptu tour of the coastal shores past the base of Diamond Head after realizing that over the years I had never bothered to venture along this small portion of Oahu, always opting to hit Kamehameha Highway as fast as possible when en route to and through the windward side of the island. I hopped off the #14 as soon as the Kahala Avenue real estate cleared, allowing me to see the ocean via the window provided by Wai'Alae Beach Park. The park is nothing spectacular but the clear waters beckoned and so off I went. Within seconds of landing on the narrow strip of sandy shore I saw a tiny, palm tree crowned island too perfectly sculpted to be made by nature, and it wasn't. The "Keep Off" sign was the next giveaway and the matching bookend peninsula found in the near horizon sealed the deal that I instead came upon a purposeful slice of paradise. This did nothing to waiver my curiosity and instead sparked my interest even further.

 

 Kahala Hotel & Resort GazeboKahala Hotel & Resort HammockKahala Hotel & Resort Island

 

After nodding a silent "congratulations" to two separate bride and groom couples being photographed along the grassy shore front I continued towards the bright white exterior of the resort recreation area where children darted out past lounge chairs and the kiddie pool as if the ocean was closing soon.


I strolled past the "Resort Guests Only" sign with an entitled swagger felt by those of us with a 25 cent business card in our wallets reading "Travel Editor" as if to say "I dare you to question my presence here. I'll have this place at zero capacity with one swift paragraph!". No hapless threats were needed as all on site staff smiled at everyone passing by their line of vision. And what a vision the exterior of this resort was. The grounds were impossibly green, meticulously manicured, and the palm tree strung hammocks barely swayed in the calm breeze caressing the ocean view suites of The Kahala. Inside the recreation area I discovered shallow person-made ponds that served as home to indigenous fish, sea turtles and a manta ray fixed in one still position, oblivious to the fact that it was there to entertain onlookers. A lagoon spread out across the remaining portion of the resort’s play pen where I was startled by a basketball being shot out of water. I inspected the area for rambunctious tots in floaties and was instead surprised to find the ocean’s most darling mammal, a group of dolphins, doing what they do best – playing. Another wedding party was being frozen in time in front of a waterfall pressed against the backlot of The Kahala Resort’s outdoors and after one last admiring glance I made my way inside.

 

Kahala Hotel & Resort Manta RayKahala Hotel & Resort Dolphin LagoonKahala Hotel & Resort Waterfall


Everything within the bottom entrance appeared as expected - luxury, class, and all the above. The spiral staircase led up to the lobby where enormous dim lit chandeliers dripped glimmering lava glass from the ceiling. Lobby stationary was encased within a painstakingly carved wooden box, presented as if it was a gift for visiting royalty. Fresh flowers complemented the ornate decor and the walls that climbed into the interior sky appeared to be a beacon of possibilities. I was impressed. I regained my senses, but before I dismissed the surface of The Kahala Resort as just another big box resort making its mark on Oahu I discovered a little more importance than expected.

 

The Kahala Hotel & Resort LobbyThe Kahala Hotel & Resort StationaryThe Kahala Hotel & Resort Wall of Fame


A massive Hawaiian flag adorned the corridor and led me further to a darkened hall where a too-many-to-count collection of autographed photos lined the wall in an endless succession that made me feel that if I was to walk down this path it would only extend into infinity like a scene from the Twilight Zone. I inspected the framed pictures and realized that this place had a long history to back up its pretty exterior. I’m accustomed to seeing the faces of visiting celebrities proudly on display at many luxury resorts, and The Kahala had more than you could imagine, but what was even more striking were the ones you don’t recognize from the silver screen. Since 1964, figures like Charles Lindberg, Joe DiMaggio, Luciano Pavarotti, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, Emperor Hirohito and Empress Nagako of Japan, Leopold III (former king of Belgium), the Sultan of Brunei and every imaginable U.S. President have rested their heads on the Frette designed Egyptian cotton pillow cases of The Kahala. This resort is not only a get-away for the rich and famous, but for the worldly and relevant as well.


After working up quite the appetite I afforded myself a signature item at Plumeria Beach House, one of five on-site dining destinations. The Kahala Burger - built from certified angus ground beef with fried egg, white cheddar, guacamole, bacon and onions - blew away my preconception that you can’t find a good burger at an upscale restaurant. I made my way back through the lobby and passing by the outside concierge desk I was waived an “Aloha, see you on your return”. After a gracious “Mahalo” I smirked to myself and made my way back to The Bus stop, thankfully out of sight.


 Kahala Hotel & Resort Exterior

 

End Note – Two months later I would return to The Kahala Hotel & Resort for a two night stay and of course the previously uncharted rooms and level of service exceeded expectations. I am a firm believer that Hawaii’s truest beauty comes first from its people and the land. But places like The Kahala also stand as a symbol of Hawaiian paradise in itself and serves to complement the natural allure of the islands for those seeking Aloha, even if it comes with a hefty price tag.

  

Wish You Were Here - Editor, YAHglobal.Com

post by : Editor - YAH Yaps

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Bibliotherapy - Literary Treatment for the Traveler's Soul

July 31, 2011

 

Bibliotherapy - is a term describing an expressive form of therapy where an individual's relationship to the content of specific books, poetry and/or other written words is used as a means to treat anxiety, depression and to improve one's over all mental and emotional wellness. I aptly came across this philosophy while on an airplane last week, browsing through an otherwise boring in-flight magazine (one I once aspired to write for) and the brief synopsis of the treatment not only jumped off the page but stuck with me well passed baggage claim and into the topic of the article you are now reading.

 

Most of us have experienced the phenomenon over the years, as far back to a beginning where a potentially arduous grade school book report became an adolescent life changing assignment when the words on the pages mirrored our own identity crisis, turmoil or pre-teen angst. The author was speaking to YOU and inspired an awakening. What you chose to do with that catharsis was up to you. For some, inspiration became whimsical fantasy and ultimately stayed perched on the bookshelf with thousands of other dewey decimal categorized dreams. For others, the written passages led them down a path following a direction far from their original plan (often the blueprint of one's parents). I can guarantee that more than a few post-grad backpacking escapades through Europe can be blamed on Mark Twain, E.E. Cummings and D.H. Lawrence. This brings me to the point of why this topic has found its way into this specific editorial. Literary treatment comes to life most often in the form of literal escape from one's current predicament. Travel, and all its wonderful appendages (new experiences, friends, opportunities, etc...) is arguably the most common side effect of prescribed or un-prescribed bibliotherapy. It most certainly was for me.

 

The Art of Travel - Alain De Botton                Kook - Peter Heller                West of Jesus - Steven Kotler


As with countless of other lost souls I was a decade deep into a career I despised - Marketing Consulting. Sure it was fun in the beginning and I was good at it. I put on a brave face, shook hands, kissed cheeks and signed contracts, but behind the scenes the gig was bringing me down. My escape from a day of leading horses to water that refused to drink (perfect metaphor for consulting!) involved diving into various travel magazines that transported my senses to the tropics and other exotic lands. Islands, Hawaii Magazine, and Caribbean Travel + Life were my solace until I could no longer wait the weeks between subscriptions, prompting me to browse the Travel Literature section at Borders. Alain De Botton's The Art of Travel title caught my attention. On numerous occasions my poor travel companions have endured impromptu lessons - titled the same as the above mentioned book - while next to me in line at airport security, customs and on 6 hour flights. The itinerary included helpful items such as "Picking the best customs agent booth" and "How to score free upgrades on airlines and at hotels". So when the words "The Art of Travel" found its way into my line of vision, I knew I had found my soul mate on paper.


In the first chapter Mr. De Botton expressed playful frustration with how shops on Caribbean islands keep Christmas decorations up all year, as if to say (in island patois) "why take the effort to take them down when you have to put them back up again in 11 months?". I thought I was the only one to ever ponder this aloofness to social protocol. I was hooked. Alain proceeded to drop minuscule, seemingly insignificant observations one makes while traveling to unique locations that indeed rang true as each page turned. It was the genius of Seinfeld in print for the travel enthusiast, exposing the quirks of a foreign culture and our skewed perception of them. My treatment had begun.


Next was to unearth works of non-fiction even more specific to my interests. My love for the ocean dares to be rivaled and my passion for waves feels about the same, however my skill level far from matches the vision I have in my head when I surf in my day dreams. So after uncovering two separate book flaps telling tales of men in mid-life crisis packing their bags and attempting to become competent surfers for the benefit of their own souls, the works found their way to the cash register within seconds. Here were two separate experiences with similar themes (minus the mid-life crisis. Mine is more like one third) I could relate to, but this was not the therapeutic part. It was not the adventures these authors had per se, but their ability to communicate it to readers, finding a common ground and even inspiring them to take similar journeys. I wanted to do that. I wanted to be responsible for yanking people out of their cubicles, freeways, and mortgages. I wanted to become the wake up call for the weary in the same manner that De Botton, Peter Heller (Kook), and Steven Kotler (West of Jesus - not a religious work) did for me the minute the final page of each was turned.

 

Smile When You're Lying - Chuck Thompson


I wanted to travel, write about it, and somehow make it pay for my annual coffee bill. I fine tuned my "craft" with other important additions such as "Smile When You're Lying - Confessions of a Travel Writer" by Chuck Thompson which aided in avoiding the pitfalls of yet another industry wrapped in red tape. I was prepared. I walked away from consulting, bought a cool looking moleskin journal and now maintain nice 3 day facial hair stubble 7 days a week. I wear flip flops as often as possible.


So what does this auto-biography have to do with you? Well, if you are reading this column the chances are that you have that same travel "bug". In fact I hope that you are neglecting work to read it. I want you to do the irresponsible thing, throw caution to the wind and go on adventure, as far away as possible and possibly forever. The more kids you may have the better, bring them with you and change their little lives too, even if starts with just a 7 day all inclusive at a time, until you are ready to take the leap as the newest expat in Costa Rica or volunteer worker in Indonesia. Photographers toss aside your wedding portfolios and snap the Galapagos Islands, bartenders open a Tiki Bar in Bora Bora, teachers teach overseas, fashionistas open a boutique shop in Cabo, lawyers...well, it's probably too late for you. The rest get the idea.


I far from assume that these written words are the ones to spark your next journey, perhaps they exist somewhere in the Travel Literature section of your closest bookstore or within another website domain name, but they're out there somewhere so pack up your figurative and literal personal baggage and start searching.

 

 

Wish You Were Here  -  Editor, YAHglobal.Com

post by : Editor - YAH Yaps

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Tropical White Sand, Turquoise Ocean....and Litter - Welcome to Hellshire

June 25, 2011

 

Hellshire Beach, Jamaica - Copywrite YAHglobal.Com


Litter everywhere. Plastic bags, empty dented soda cans, banana pepper sauce stained paper plates, wood (not of the drifting variety) planks and torn fishing nets. Perhaps "everywhere" is too harsh a word, but given my penchant for pristine tropical beach scenery I am quick to deem any ocean front with an article of manmade debris for every 15 foot radius to be "littered". This isn't a disgruntled piece of thesis you are about to read however. In fact, Hellshire Beach ended up as the setting for one of my favorite days while in Jamaica.


Hellshire sounds like a moniker given to some Scottish countryside where broken castles and stone huts stand as reminders of a medieval time, or perhaps even the name of a forbidden forest from the mind of J.R.R. Tolkien as in - "Never venture into the Hellshire alone". I'm pretty sure a few rogue tourists heard the same ominous whisper in the back of minds as their rental cars pulled up into the desert like entrance of this hidden beach. The makeshift structures (can't quite call them buildings) of scrap metal, wood, brick and aluminum siding that bookend the sand bottomed driveway inside Hellshire take the off the beaten path concept to a whole other level. You start to rethink your game plan, keys still in the ignition, when you are immediately approached by bright wide smiling teeth and dreadlocked silhouettes emerging from the dark entrance of one of the local "cafes". "Welcome, welcome Mon" accompanied by firm but heartfelt handshakes and genuine offers to help unpack the vehicle pretty much ensure that you are now committed to a day here at their beach. "Ya wan't help witcha ski?" said one of my new friends, pointing at the surfboard strapped to the top of the burgundy Range Rover, something I keep on hand when on any island in case there are waves in sight. I agreed to the aid understanding that this was all going to cost me somehow. I'm a notorious (to my budget) over tipper and Jamaica is notorious for expecting tips for everything - small price to pay for enjoying its fruitful land.

 

Hellshire Beach Village - Copywrite YAHglobal.Com Hellshire Beach Cafe - Copywrite YAHglobal.Com Hellshire Beach Village - Copywrite YAHglobal.Com


Passing over the cool dirt floor of the cafe a sense of intrigue washed over me as I heard the sound of gentle waves slapping against the reef in the distance. There was also the sound of children playing in that same distance, soothing any suspicion built from years of carousing cautious guidebooks that warn readers to avoid places like this. The bright sky blinded me as I exited on the other side and the initial view of the powdery white sand and azure waters validated the long drive almost immediately, however when my vision adjusted to the sun’s rays I noticed the sand peppered with, well...garbage. It was far from a dumping ground but still a bit of turn off nonetheless. Any hopes of writing about a proverbial hidden gem in the less traveled Jamaica washed away...or did it? I was in for the long haul and had to put aside my judgment for the time being.

 

Hellshire Beach Jamaica - Copywrite YAHglobal.Com


The mouth watering scent emerging from the rustic eatery kitchen behind me, presumably operated by my welcoming party, prompted an order of fried chicken, fish, and festival - a delectable pan sizzled dough/pastry essential to any Jamaica cuisine experience. Apparently this is the golden ticket at Hellshire. Once they know you're here to put money into the community, the red carpet begins rolling. Within seconds of placing the food order I witnessed a display of hospitality that rivaled that of the Bahia Principe, of course without the amenities. Fingers were snapped ordering old hammer and rusty nailed beach chairs to be carried out to where my towel lay and drinks were delivered with a speed uncommon to a place operating on "island time". After gnawing down the last chicken wing and gulping a frosted bottle of pineapple soda I carefully placed my towel over questionable parts of the beach chair and reclined with arms stretched out behind my head. Perhaps my sated appetite altered my vision but all of a sudden the scene at Hellshire became much more appealing. Vendors hocked seashell necklaces, traditional red-yellow-green Rastafarian garb and accessories in addition to items that should have been out of place such as Disney themed floatation devices for kids, but the potluck of Hellshire seemed to make everything belong.

 

Your Editor at Hellshire Beach, JamaicaTourist on a Horseback Ride at Hellshire Beach - Copywrite YAHglobal.Com


The crowd appeared to be mostly local or at least from neighboring communities and even when I approached a lily white (in comparison to the surroundings) couple to investigate their travel origins their return speech indicated a hint of island patois common to expats. Guided horseback walkabouts of the shoreline were available for only three U.S. dollars and a steady flow of customers lined up for the opportunity, finally uncovering who the vacationers were. Fishing boats nearing their final days pulled ashore with nets full of catch to feed the next set of visitors and watching fish heads being chopped into buckets became a pastime for children at the beach. I tip toed over the hot sand maze avoiding debris until I waded into the inexplicably clean ocean water with only churning sand to prevent seeing through the turquoise surface. Clearly the condition of the beach had no correlation to water quality, indicating that a few well placed garbage cans on shore would obliterate the only thing keeping Hellshire from becoming a major tourist draw. Perhaps this was an intentional ruse created to keep Hellshire a predominant local recreation area. After all, will so much resort development on the island, its only fair that the community get to keep something for themselves and those that dare to brave the journey towards Kingston.


My final act at Hellshire beach was to take my "ski" out to the small waves crashing on the reef about a half mile out to sea and attempt a few short rides. As i walked out to the closest paddle out point two wonderfully buxom middle aged local women sitting in beach chairs and cleaning fish smiled at me "You be careful out there baby. The current can be a little strong and a crocodile or two has been seen swimming around the rivermouth from time to time. Stay in this area (pointing) and you'll be ok". I smiled at the maternal baby comment and gave thanks, replying for them to keep an eye on me out there. "Of course!" one of them said with a frisky wink, and in one moment the island worked its magic. I entered into the Hellshire and came out on the otherside not scathed but touched by it's honesty and now fond of this modest beach and its endearing community - litter and all.

 

 

Wish You Were Here - Editor, YAHglobal.Com

post by : Editor - YAH Yaps

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The Actions of a Few - Stanley Cup Finals Riot 2011

June 16, 2011

 

Vancouver Post Stanley Cup Final Message Board

 

"The actions of a few..." The phrase is commonly heard after many riots. When the few come from a few hundred thousand the resulting few thousand can combine to create quite the disaster. That's what happened at the conclusion of Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Vancouver, B.C.. Heartbroken fans left downtown with their heads down. Some maintained their undying optimism and belted out "Next year!" in order to keep spirits up. Others stayed to show their respect for their team that played 100 games with the heart of a champion and to respectfully congratulate the Canucks hard fought opponents, the victorious Boston Bruins.  Few others however, had something else in mind.

 

Having been in Vancouver for the last two series leading up to the Stanley Cup Final I was able to witness the most awesome display of camaraderie I had ever seen and I am not referring to the NHL team that played on the various screens sprinkled throughout the city, but the fans that they played for. I have attended many sporting events throughout North America, including the 2010 Winter Olympics that cast a spotlight on Vancouver and heralded them as one of the most friendly and cordial populations anyone has visited. I agreed as I watched a city bond to celebrate not only their country that brought home the most gold, but to sing the praises of all visiting athletes and tourists from around the world. Hundreds of thousands partied on the streets through the days and nights with barely a scuffle in sight. I thought I would never get to see such an awesome display ever again but this year's Stanley Cup run in Vancouver not only dismissed my own assumption, it far exceeded everyone’s expectations.

 

Gigantic screens were set up in hotspots throughout the downtown core on the city streets that served to bring everyone together into one massive living room to cheer on their home team. The workplace let people go home early to catch the 5pm game times and it's safe to say that weekday morning hangovers were tolerated for the first time, especially considering the same "affliction" fell upon many bosses and CEOs as well. Fans were ecstatic to the point of gleeful tears during victories and even the losses brought out the best in the crowd, opting to show good sportsmanship and anticipate victory for the games to come. The sun seemed to shine on this picture perfect setting for almost every single big game and the public gathering continued to grow with the chances of their team bringing home the Cup. Every age, ethnicity, and class of citizen became one. Vancouver was alive, vibrant, and no matter your worries in life a simple trip to CBC studios (most popular screening location) complemented by a few high fives with strangers would soon wash it all away. The city was willing the team to win and it seemed all but a guarantee that the sea, sky and mountainside landscape of Vancouver would shine even more with the inevitable ownership of the Stanley Cup trophy. That's why in the dying seconds of the third period of the last Game 7 a blanket of disbelief fell upon the once so certain crowd of over a quarter of a million public spectators.

 

I'm not even going to address the specifics of the riot here. The multitude of iPhones, cameras and camcorders in attendance captured every minute of the travesty and a quick search on the likes of Google, YouTube and Flickr will have every moment in HD available for your viewing. Instead, I feel it is a duty as a media source of sorts to let anyone that happens upon this article know that the post game events taking place between 8pm and 1am on June 15/2011 in downtown Vancouver by no means reflect upon the city and its people.

 

It's difficult at times to look at the proverbial "silver lining" of anything so negative, but as I write this article sitting at a café across from the retail carnage of smashed windows now boarded up, I'm seeing something that 15 hours ago (when the 3rd goal was scored on the Vancouver Canucks) that I could not have anticipated. The crowd of passionate fans had slipped into an immediate depression after the game defining goal against their home team. Dreams of a summer filled with parades and celebrations washed away into the sewers and you could feel the impending depression form as fast as the excitement dissipated. As I left the crowd I was certain I would awaken to a morning stroll of a city hanging their heads low, with nothing left to bring them together. All watercooler talk would now cease and the sea of blue and green jerseys would be relegated to dark closet spaces until next season (or never again for disheartened fair-weather fans). Instead, I woke up to a surprise.

 

A hand painted makeshift sign across from me hangs on the boarded windows of iconic Hudson Bay Company store reading "On behalf of my team and my city, I’m Sorry", placed by an eccentric middle aged gentleman and citizen of Vancouver early this morning. This sparked an influx of Vancouverites with black Sharpie markers in hand to offer their own pleadings to not judge them by the actions of a few. Other writings came from visitors encouraging the city to keep smiling and ensuring them that this event does not impact their perception of this Pacific Northwest gem of a city. The city is also filled with people, garbage bags in tow, gathering and sweeping up remnants of the previous night's wreckage. People are talking again, smiling, hugging, coming in late to work without repercussion in order to restore the image of their hometown. The Mayor is walking amongst them and shaking hands, thanking them all for their help. News crews are documenting the whole thing and once again the city is alive and buzzing with positivity, brought together not this time by victory, but by a defeat that has already proven to be short lived.

 

You have nothing to be sorry for Vancouver, if anything you have restored the faith of myself and many others, that both your city and humanity in general is still in good hands. Thank you for being you.

 


Wish You Were Here - Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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Shedding Light on the Lighthouse

June 12, 2011

 

Point Atkinson Lighthouse - Copywrite YAHglobal.Com

 

A young girl within earshot, no more than 4 years old at best, questioned innocently "Daddy, I thought we were going to see a lighthouse today?" with a tone of disappointment lingering at the end. Daddy answered defeated but affectionately "We did honey, it was that tall white castle looking thing with the red top on the rocks". The girl replied with a somber "Oh..." and diverted her attention to a shiny object along the forest path, forgetting about the whole fiasco within seconds. I smirked as I walked past in the other direction.

 

To a child, a "lighthouse" surely sounds more entertaining than it really is, possibly conjuring visions of a bright arching rainbow landing squarely atop a fairy tale type abode as if it was a pot of gold one could reside in or at the very least is a place with a funky gift shop. In reality, it's pretty much how "Daddy" described it - a tall white castle looking thing with a red top on the rocks. So why the fascination? Sure we can draw upon the old clichéd metaphors of how the structure symbolizes the beacon of hope for us all as we contend with the rough seas in our own life, but that's simply the result of reading too many inspirational poems, self-help books, romance novels and fortune cookies.

 

Tourists spend hard earned cash to rent cars, take shuttles, brave city bus routes, hike unfriendly trails, and become novice rock climbers with heavy backpacks full of camera equipment, energy bars and bottled water to simply catch a glimpse of a lighthouse, operational or otherwise. Yours truly is guilty of going to extreme lengths to do the same. Within the last 2 months alone I photographed the lighthouses of Diamond Head Beach (Oahu), Makapu'u Trail (Oahu), Key Biscayne (Florida) and most recently I had the pleasure of getting up close and personal with the Point Atkinson Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver, British Columbia.

 

Diamond Head Lighthouse - Copywrite YAHglobal.Com         Makapu'u Lighthouse - Copywrite YAHglobal.Com        Key Biscayne Lighthouse

 

After visiting Vancouver on numerous occasions, the bug finally got the best of me on a return journey. In the past, I would stand along the west facing shores of Spanish Banks beach and catch myself staring across the channel at a lighthouse perched upon the large stone outcropping of what I thought to be an off limits zone to anyone without a boat and a boatload of gas to fuel the journey. On one fateful day (last week) the magic of Google uncovered that the hiking trail to this "beacon of hope" was only a 45 minute bus ride away. So off I went, backpack packed with camera equipment, energy bars and bottled water, traipsing through towers of Douglas Firs and Pacific Northwest forest growth until I could hear, then see, the waves crashing against the very rocks that once seemed unreachable. There she was (a lighthouse is often ironically referred to as "she" although they are completely phallic in nature), standing tall and serving as the sole reason anyone would make the journey to her shorefront. As with most operational lighthouses, the actual structure was off limits and kept within a gated "No Trespassing" zone. The 12 year old within me often guffaws at any attempt from "the man" telling me what to do and often takes the message as "Welcome - Feel Free to Hop the Fence" but on the other side a large weather beaten dog house the size of a small dark cave kept me at bay.

 

To tell you the truth, without photographic evidence to say otherwise, my mind saw no discernible difference between the Point Atkinson Lighthouse and the other three I had visited in the last 60 days and I spent most of the time at the nature park admiring the surroundings without paying much attention to the actual subject of investigation. I realized that is always the case. So again, why the interest?

 

As far as aesthetics and architecture go, popular lighthouse attractions are often of the same standard variety and most of them are completely outdated in their ability to serve as a signal for incoming ships. In fact, the more sophisticated the system, the more contraptions, technology and structural additions (the less traditional) the less likely we are to be drawn to it. We won't look twice at anything visually modern but give us the old circular red, white and without hue and we'll plan a vacation around it. Forget modern navigational developments, we want nothing more than a big light bulb jetting out 50 feet in the sky. The magnetic power of a lighthouse is thus found within its simplicity, but even more importantly - location, location, location. The nature of this beast places it against a backdrop of perfect sunrises, sunsets, quaint B & B accommodations and always accompanied by a soundtrack of seagulls and shore lapping waves. We're talking about the concept of seaside cliché at its best.

 

It's the journey, and all of the side effects that make our beloved lighthouse so endearing. It's the vacation you may never have taken, the hike you would have otherwise ignored, the nearby coffee shop you may never have discovered, the people you may not have met along the trail, the shiny object distracting a little girl and the time she spent that day with her Daddy. If we didn't have an excuse like this to pull us away from the mundane we may never venture anywhere, and that is what where the beacon of hope truly lies.

 


Wish Your Were Here - Editor, YAHglobal.Com

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My 11th trip to the Garden of Eden

April 25, 2011

 

Diamond Head Beach - Where Eden begins...

 Photo: Fig leaves have been replaced by boardshorts & bikinis in the new Eden

 

After about a dozen trips to the islands and countless of hours of “research” I am now convinced that Hawaii is/was the official Garden of Eden. Please keep in mind that the Garden exists in some form in most major belief systems about the world but also put aside your religious convictions (or lack thereof), disregard conflicting time lines, carbon dating and whether or not the volcanic eruptions that created the likes of Molokai refute or support theories of genesis. Let's look at some whimsical facts instead.


When you return from Hawaii, your friends, family and associates tend to ask how it was with an ecstatic exclamation mark at the end of the sentence as if they already knew the answer. Of course it was great. Now look at they way people inquire about a trip to Mexico, the Caribbean, states/provinces within North America and even abroad. There is always a curious tone as to whether or not the trip went well, a concern over culture clash or to see if you experienced the same issues that they had met with on their previous trips to the same land. Did you feel the wrath of  Montezuma's revenge? Did the money conversion leave you financially incompetent when it came to leaving a tip? Were you treated like a red headed step child because you were a red headed step child tourist from a country frowned upon by the locals, even though you were supporting quite possibly their only thriving industry? Was their rainy season meant to be taken literally? Were you kidnapped? You get the idea. When returning from any of these regions and someone asks “How was your trip?”, they really mean it. Hawaii on the other hand is a foregone conclusion.

 

Makapu'u - Copywrite YAHglobal.Com


Another case in point - How many times have your heard people respond to the same query with “Great, but I was ready to come home at the end of it” or “I needed a vacation from my vacation”? I dare you to find someone saying that when their trip to Maui or Kauai has reached its conclusion. On a flight back from Hawaii, although there may be a few pouty expressions on the faces of those that dread leaving paradise to return to some humdrum existence at home, most everyone on board resonates with the spirit of Aloha. Even days later they leave baristas at the local Starbucks confused when saying “Mahalo” after being handed a beverage, refusing to let go of the second most often heard expression on the islands, although it inevitably fades along with the tan. You count the days when you can step into an ABC store to use it again. What other three syllables can incite such giddiness? “I love you” doesn't count because for some it strikes fear.

 

Chinaman's Hat - Copywrite YAHglobal.Com


Let's look at the my most recent trip to Oahu last week. Waikiki would be the greatest argument against the Garden of Eden concept, with it's Vegas like persona, packed to the gills with camera toting travelers and tacky tourist trap shops, eateries and commission only street vendors trying to convince you that firing off an AK-47 IS a part of the Oahu experience. But in the same context that there could be no heaven without hell, no good without bad, no ying without yang (which one is the bad one?), Waikiki exists to both satisfy the tastes of the less adventurous and to astound us that a polar opposite can exist within a 10 minutes drive. In an admittedly harsh metaphor, Waikiki is the apple tree that will spoil our souls if we linger under its branches too long. Perhaps “apple” was a misconstrued translation of scripture and derived from the original word “pineapple”. Think about it.


Venturing away from the “tree” and starting with Diamond Head Beach (NOT the crater) one can find immediate seclusion and continuing further along a circle island path only hammers home the point. I found myself completely alone on Chinaman's Hat, one of the world's most photographed islands and climbed to it's peak without anyone in site. Across Kamehameha Highway I took an uncharacteristic (for me) tour of the Kualoa Mountain Range with only 5 people on the all-terrain bus. Cowboy, the driver, didn't hold back for one minute in his assertion that we were venturing through God's country and that we should thank the “man upstairs” for our view. For someone that hates being preached to, it was surprisingly refreshing to hear such unguarded candor. I sipped the nectar of the earth via a freshly hacked coconut at the Tropical Farms Macadamia Nut Farm before driving back to hike to the summit of a lighthouse overlooking Makapu'u Beach and witnessed dozens of Humpback Whales migrating along the nearby shores of Oahu's windward side, which put EVERYTHING “back at the office” in perspective. I also finished an evening off with the best chicken shawarma I ever sank my teeth into at Da Falafel King foodstand back in Waikiki and on the subsequent morning chowed down on some Spam Musubi for a late breakfast. Only an island that makes miracles happen can turn something such as Spam into much a sought after delicacy. I took a free ukulele group lesson at PuaPua and witnessed a room full of smiling people with no regard for tone snicker at themselves with each strum. I dare anyone to find an instrument that incites universal happiness in the way a ukulele does. I'm not even touching on the tip of the proverbial iceberg here, neglecting to mention the wonder of the North Shore in the winter months, the ridiculously picturesque corridor of Kailua to Lanikai, the country feel of Makaha or the inland communities of the island.


The other attainable islands of Hawaii, including Maui, Big Island, Kauai, Molokai and Lanai offer more irrefutable evidence of introductory thesis, with more nature and less nurturing from the tourist industry and as the months go on you will get the opportunity to learn more about the island chain through special features on YAHglobal.Com. For those that don't subscribe to anything such as the Garden of Eden, Utopia, or any metaphor of the sort....simply believe in Hawaii. Your soul will thank you.

 

Wish You Were Here,  Editor – YAHglobal.Com

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Earth Hour 2011 Difference or Dud?

March 27, 2011

 

 

 

Last night I stood out on a chilly balcony on the 22nd floor overlooking the downtown core of a major metropolitan city holding onto a tiny glimmer of anticipation as the seconds passed. I want to say that some rustic antique clocked echoed the last tick and bellowed a single deep bass like chime from 8:29 to 8:30 but instead I had to turn to look at the in-suite microwave to make sure the time had transitioned to the supposed “event” I was waiting for. Earth Hour 2011, 8:30pm and nothing happened. The sea of lights that make up this city center did not only neglect to dim but with near certainty I am pretty sure I witnessed more turn on in addition to the blaring screens of LCD TVs and Mac monitors in the foreground and its safe to assume that curling irons, hair dryers, and electric shavers were in full use as well. Someone should tell the fine folks at World Wildlife Foundation (WFF) that planning an international energy saving event during prime personal hygiene prepping hours of a Saturday night-out is not the wisest of strategies, as well intentioned as it is. What's wrong with Sunday evening while we are huddled up in our PJ's? I can't think of a better time to sit by candlelight.

 

 

Now before those that know me cry “hypocrite!” and balk at the idea of me, not the noblest of environmentalists, preaching or chastising anyone on this topic, by any means please know that I am not. I have been known to overlook the blue recycle bin in favor of convenience (even for only a few inches sometimes) when throwing out an empty milk jug or am frequently found leaving a dangling i-Pad charging cord plugged into the wall without it's mate for days on end. I'm working on it. In fact, I was going to write this blog live last night as the time changed until I realized the irony of it, tapping away on my netbook to complain about how no one bothered to stop electrical use for a mere hour. Your welcome (WWF), I did my part.

 

 

My concern however, is that the city I was in yesterday evening is touted, mostly by itself, as being environmentally conscious to the point of developing a guise of green superiority, probably born out of an inferiority complex. The statistics (% drop in megawatts of energy use) of Earth Hour 2011 for this metropolis barely registered. One other large populous hub worth noting in this context, Calgary, AB, a beautiful city which also lays claim to being among the greenest in it's nation was the most disappointing of all the counted cities in the world with a 3.6% INCREASE in energy consumption. Maybe they forgot to change their clocks to account for daylight saving a couple of weeks ago.

 

 

On a positive note, many of the world's major landmarks and tourist attractions went dark from the Acropolis in Athens to the Santa Monica Pier in L.A. County to Times Square in NYC. Sydney, Australia had yet another strong showing with approximately half of its population in participation while Japan, who gets a definite “hall pass” for exemption from this event in the wake of the recent earthquake/tsunami tragedy, showed a strong show of support and set an example for us all to follow. Earth Hour also sparked a surge of entertainment around the world. As mentioned, tourist attractions known for their bright display became a novelty in itself, a reverse fireworks display of sorts, when lights switched off and YouTube videos ran abound with the likes of the Paris Eiffel Tower and Buenos Aires Obelisk in Argentina fading (instantly) to black. In South Africa, the award winning Soweto Gospel Choir held a free candlelit concert while smaller but just as heartfelt activities took place in just about every city. The Acqua (not a spelling error) Four Seasons in Miami had patrons dine a set menu made of organic and sustainable ingredients by wax and burning wick. Earth Hour has become a full on global event and as each city ups it's annual “green” festivities they will become tourist attractions worth traveling to for those reasons alone.

 

 

Again, this article does not intend to point fingers at cities that fell short and herald those that went the extra mile. Ultimately, there is little actual global impact felt on one hours worth of energy savings. However, as Earth Hour co-founder and executive director Andy Ridley stated to the AFP in Sydney Australia where it all started in 2007, “The amount of power that is saved during that time is not what its really about”. What it's about, is making people more conscious and creating a world wide buzz about keeping our electrical habits in check while having a little fun in the process. So keep abreast of next year's Earth Hour 2012 (and possibly stave off the impending end of the world in the same year) events across the world and use it as an excuse to visit a new city that holds a festivity applicable to your tastes. For now, how about joining me for an organic candlelit dinner this Sunday evening? Figuratively that is.

 

 

Wish You Were Here, Editor – YAHglobal.Com

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The Traveler's Classic Scholastic Movie Tour!

February 28, 2011

 

Highschool, college, and university based movies have been and continue to be a big part of our lives. We watched them from adolescence into adulthood and saw ourselves within one or more of the characters portrayed on the big screen, identifying with them in one way or another. Almost as pertinent as the actors are the locations of these films. We picture ourselves in Molly Ringwald's shoes as she traipses through the hallway, gym or cafeteria of some nondescript high school that looked much like our own. We envision what we would do if we were in Robin William's predicament (whatever it may be) as he crosses the winter frosted green courtyard of some prestigious university grounds towards the gray column bookended doors. Of course, both of the above references are subjective to whom you identify with; a teenage girl the former, and middle aged man the latter, or vice versa perhaps?

 

To nail down the point, the locations of these films are as much a character as the actors cast, sometimes even more so. You may have been able to replace Matt Damon or Jesse Eisenberg (albeit to the detriment of both Good Will Hunting and Social Network) but you darn sure could not have used another location in place of Harvard if either film were to work both critically and at the Box Office. The setting set the tone for each and no elaborately decorated warehouse on the back lot of Universal Studios could replicate that.

 

When something has such a positive impact on our psyche, we desire to revisit the experience as much as possible which is why we watch these movies over and over again on a lazy Sunday afternoon when nothing appears to be on. We stumble upon some random channel to find Breakfast Club playing once again, and we watch it for the 99th time. Trekkies have conventions to attend across the world since flying to space isn't an option, but what are we more grounded individuals to do to get a more physical fix of the flicks we love? While most of us will never get the opportunity to meet any of the stars of our favorite scholastic movies we can do something very tangible about getting up close & personal with those very films.

 

YAHglobal.Com has put together a list of some notable schools across North America where some of the most popular movies of the aforementioned genre have taken place and used as actual locations for filming. If you are feeling especially inspired and have the resources to do so, you can create a summer vacation itinerary and visit them all. That would make for one amazing themed photographic collage and you will almost be guaranteed a guest editorial spot here on YAHglobal. For the more frugal, if you happen to be visiting any of the below listed cities in the near future, you can make a point out of stopping by the relevant educational institution within close proximity. Eitherway, we think we've come up with yet another cool excuse for you to travel and see the world, and there is no better form of higher learning than that.

 

1. Harvard University - Good Will Hunting (1997), Social Network (2010), and more
1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA

 

 

Pretty much every corner of Harvard has been used in film so you will recognize what is relevant to you once on campus. One of the most notable areas is the Eliot House (Old School, Legally Blonde, Euro Trip, Chasing Liberty, and Social Network) so you may want to concentrate on that location. If you prefer to go the guided route, tours are actually available and FREE of charge for individuals. Groups of over 15 must reserve ahead of time by emailing info_center@harvard.edu. The tour walks you through Harvard Yard and is led by students who will run through the great history of this institution with additions of interesting anecdotes and keep you up to date with current events.

 


2. Glenbrook High School Breakfast Club (1985), Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
2300 Shermer Rd. Northbrook, Chicago, IL

 

               

 

Two of the biggest high school movies of all time were filmed in part at Glenbrook, although the interior scenes were shot at a nearby location – Maine North High - which has since been closed down and re-opened as a police station. Nonetheless, Glenbrook offers prime photo opportunities from the exterior where you can mimic Ferris picking up girlfriend Sloane from the steps of their school before the day of adventure begins. But the real money shot lies on the football field of Glenbrook where the original “fist pump” took place when Judd Nelson's character John Bender raises his arm in victory. Given that it is an actual high school, don't go poking around inside or during school hours as you just may end up at the old Maine North High building, behind bars.

 


3. Van Nuys High School Grease (1978), Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and more
6535 Cedros Avenue, Van Nuys, CA

 

 

 

Van Nuys High has served as a home to two of the original high school movies Grease (innocent) and Fast Times at Ridgemont High (not so innocent) and Ridgemont's mascot was the very same as Van Nuy's, a wolf, which remains on the field today. At least two generations will have a soft spot for either movie if not both and thus it is worth visiting. Again, this is a high school so keep your snooping after school hours and outside and whatever you do, don' t take your photos from within a tinted window van across the street. The excuse won't hold up well in court.

 

 

4. University of Oregon Animal House (1978)
1585 East 13th Avenue, Eugene, OR

 

                      

 

In the same manner that Grease and Fast Times at Ridgemont High sparked a slew of high school movies, Animal House did the same for the college/university genre. Before then, university Deans were a well liked and respected bunch, now they are considered to be the bane of everyone's collegiate existence. The U of O is a definite must visit to see Animal House campus locations in person. The actual residence depicted as the Delta House was home of the Psi Deuteron chapter of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity until 1967 when it closed down and demolished soon after from disrepair (must have been a good party). In recognition of its legacy, a plaque was embedded in stone commemorating the historic value of this location in regards to the classic college film. FREE 90-minute campus walking tours are offered each weekday at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. beginning on the first floor of Oregon Hall. On Saturdays, tours begin at 10:30 a.m. and leave from Oregon Hall.

 


Have you visited any of these schools? Did we miss any important ones relevant to the topic? If so, let us know by leaving a comment below!

 


Wish You Were Here,  Editor – YAHglobal.Com

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Give Authentic Souvenirs A Shot

February 07, 2011

 

Las Vegas didn't stand a chance. It fell in what appeared to be slow motion down to the tiles and shattered into a multitude of pieces leaving blue glass shards that formed a nondescript pattern on the floor. It would have looked kind of cool if not for being so tragic. This morning I was reaching for the Cheerios, which I keep beside my "Cities I've Been To" shot glass collection in a not-so-feng-shui manner and in a brief moment of early morning carelessness sent Las Vegas to join Venice Beach, Atlanta, Seattle, San Diego, Honolulu and countless of others in the souvenir afterlife. I removed the box of Cheerios for good and realized the "collection" was down to just two; Jamaica (caption reading "Everyting Irie Mon") and Huntington Beach, CA ("Surf City USA"). It now looks like some post apocalyptic shot glass wasteland with two lone survivors left to fight the dust bunnies and film that collects in every cupboard found above the kitchen stove.

 

These were the only souvenirs I bothered to collect over the years, a perennial trait of one's inner bachelor. Photographs of travels have gone missing in albums packed away with every change of apartment and who bothers to convert every single digital pic from camera to document folder or hard drive? SD cards are our new photo albums and those too are misplaced in day to day shuffling. "Hawaii 78" t-shirts go from club wear to gym wear to home sick wear to window cleaning rag to the garbage pail. Postcards, boarding pass and baggage claim stubs end up in recycling bins (right?). Seashells became makeshift bathroom soap holders and eventually stained beyond repair. All I had left to prove I've been anywhere were those shot glasses. If aliens came to earth today, commandeered me and my condo for analysis they would think I've only been to Jamaica and Huntington Beach, CA. It could be worse I suppose.

 

Starting today, well, starting with my next journey, I will begin collecting items from locales worth collecting. No more "Made in China" stamps will exist on tags or the bottoms of housewares purchased in another land unless of course I'm actually in China. I will put together a collection made by the weathered hands of people in that land. Local artisans, crafts people, and mom & pop shopkeepers will reap the benefits of my souvenir travel budget. My home will display regional paintings, ukuleles, canoe paddles, smoke pipes (unused of course), replica weaponry, hand carved bowls and pottery. Not only will I take extra special care of these mementos and have something to hand down and inspire my great grand children with (I plan on living a long time), I can leave each country, city, island and town with a sense of altruistic pride in that I helped support the true local community instead spending my loot at the government run airport gift shop.

 

What will become of my shot glass collection? For the sake of nostalgia I will not abandon poor Jamaica and Huntington Beach, CA. I will bend my new rule (already) and always include just one stop at the tacky gift shop to keep the legacy alive. Today I will head over to a craft store I heard about and purchase a case to house this collection, which will probably still go in the very same cupboard, but now protected from the elements (my elbow). The rest of the home will become a shrine to the fine works that the varying people's of the world deemed worthy of creation in their workshops or ocean front painting easel so that I have something to take away from their land, a beautiful memory of time spent, albeit a time far too short.


Wish You Were Here,  Editor - YAHglobal.Com

 

 


Below are short and admittedly somewhat arbitrary tips and references of where to find authentic souvenirs from destinations on our YAHglobal.Com network. Please support local business when you can and avoid tourist trap shops that sell you things you will regret almost immediately upon your return home.


Honolulu, HI
- Find out where to locate authentic Hawaiian products here

 

Mexico
- One of the best places in all of Mexico to find quality authentic goods is from within Guadalajara. Although distance wise it might be like saying to go to New York for great U.S.A souvenirs when your trip is to Florida, but we're just giving you a glimpse as to where one should go if their focus was a Mexican shopping expedition or even for import/export purposes. Guadalajara's Central district as well as Casa de las Artesanias de Jalisco, located close to the Parque Agua Azul is very popular with visitors. On Sundays, Mercado El Baratillo flea market, near Javier Mina is a major destination point for local crafts and the like. Suburbs such as both Tonala and Tlaquepaque, a mere 9 miles from Guadalajara city centre are also great bargain hunting zones.

 

Major metropolitan - U.S.A/Canada
- Pay attention to upcoming craft fairs and weekly flea markets that gather local artisans specializing in works that convey a sense of the city they live in. Otherwise, if you see big regional flags, license plates and stereotypical mascots in the windows, keep walking. 

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Staycation Shmaycation...

January 24, 2011

 

                                                    All of a sudden "trendy" isn't so appealing

 

 


“Staycations” can kiss my ass. This new "neologism, often misdiagnosed as a “witticism”, has found its way into our verbal repertoire because of the supposed recession over the past couple of years. The word is intended as a clever note for people to use around the office water cooler or local cafe so that the target of one's conversation responds with “Staycation? What's that??”, at which point, satisfied that you have introduced a curious new moniker into your friend's vocabulary, you launch into definition and reasoning behind its existence. “Staycation” you tell them, is a way to rediscover your city, the place you currently live, to see it through the eyes of a tourist, to do things that you would do if you were a tourist while in your own town. You tell them that this is a financially wise alternative to taking an annual trip elsewhere, avoiding flight, hotel and miscellaneous expenses that accompany said vacation. Why spend four figures for a week on a white sand beach shaded by 30 foot palms when for less than one or two digits you can sink your toes into a cool gravel laden shoreline and spend the day soaking up the atmosphere at your local lake? Well, as far as I'm concerned, you just answered your own question.

 


I'm walking a fine line with this article. The existence of YAHglobal.Com in itself can be attributed in a large part to the public's exploration of the city they currently reside within. Most online visitors spend time on the home page of their own city, checking out new cafes and watering holes or attractions that they have passed by yet overlooked throughout the years. Yours truly will most likely pen (keyboard) a piece about the benefits of a staycation simply because the public demands it, so feel free to take note of this work now and throw it back in my face, if and when you read the words in the near or distant future. You have my permission. But for now, allow me to vent about the uneventful concept of the topic at hand.

 


You've already been on staycation. You've been doing it since you've moved here, wherever you are. Its been a culmination of all your leisure time throughout the years. Just because you take a week off of work and rolled these activities into one, peppered with a new experience (visiting that other Starbucks a few blocks down) here and there does not allow that period of time to earn the its place along side of the true word of relevance that ends in “cation”. Doing or seeing something new in your own city can be accomplished on any any given Tuesday, be it ziplining or going to the theater, not allocated towards your well deserved vacation time. By buying into this new concept, you are more likely to ignore the activities you would simply partake in on the weekend (or whenever your days off occur) in an effort to save them all up for your staycation, thus robbing yourself of weekly pastimes that make can make your general existence more entertaining. Instead, enjoy your city everyday when possible, take a different route on the way home from work, take advantage of the ethnically diverse cafes found in almost every city instead of going to the same franchise/chain day after day, or use the bathroom of the nearest 5 star hotel and loiter inconspicuously in the lobby afterwards until the jig is up.

 


Your vacation time, however, should be allocated towards just that. Now I know the biggest selling point of the staycation is that you spend a fraction of the money as you would on a trip to some “exotic” locale. It would be a whole other topic to tell you where to cut corners to create the money needed to pack up and leave the monetary comforts that keeping near home base brings, but simple lifestyle changes can afford you that luxury easier than you think. Don't drive (cancel you car insurance, gas bill, parking) for a couple of months or cut a few channels from your TV package prior to your vacation time. Friends will be far more impressed by photos of your hike up Diamond Head Volcano Crater than hearing about how the “Soup Nazi” episode of Seinfeld looked so much better in HD. Instead of two Venti Cappuccinos per day, stick to one Americano. Instead of hitting the food court every afternoon, pack a lunch. You get the idea. You'd be amazed how fast it adds up.

 


Keep in mind too, that the travel destination of choice need not be some remote far off land. While I am recommending that you do take a trip, you can do so within the confines of a set radius that best accommodates your budget. A two hour drive can lead to a different world, especially if you have the geographic advantage of a coastline or mountainous protrusion within reach, becoming as much an escape as an overseas trip can. As well, family and friends in other cities can fill in for concierges with their sofas and guestrooms serving as hotels that require only conversation as payment.

 


Aside from that, be diligent in your flight and hotel hunting (again, a whole other topic) and you will be well on your way to treating your 7 to 14 day time off in the way it was intended, as far away from home as possible. Sorry neologism, you've failed us yet again. “Staycation” can join “metrosexual” and “spork” in the has-been waiting room.

 

 

Let YAHglobal.Com help you get out of town with our latest contest for a trip to the Dominican Republic courtesy of NH Hotels. Follow the link here to view entry details.

 

 

Wish You Were Here,  Editor - YAHglobal.com

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Tis the season of The Nutcracker

December 24, 2010

 

 

 

As synonymous with Christmas and the holiday season as Santa, Nativity Scenes and jam packed shopping malls is Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker". The anecdotal lack of success of the original back in 1892 did nothing to halt this production from steam rolling its way into the hearts of our inner child, generations since it's inception. Whether you consider it a masterpiece or not, The Nutcracker is now a permanent fixture at your local ballet house during the month of December and most likely as part of the garnish found on your home's holiday decor. At some point in your life you will find a nutcracker under the Christmas tree, in your stocking, or wrapped neatly and stuffed into a shiny bag with your name on the tag at the office holiday gift exchange. In turn, it is a bucket list requirement to attend The Nutcracker at some point in your life. You owe the little fella that much.

 

I paid my dues this past weekend by congregating amongst hundreds of seasoned (cravats around necks, theater binoculars in hand) and unseasoned (patched blazers, jeans and Pumas) attendees to view a traditional mixed with contemporary version of The Nutcracker. It seems that composers race to complete their own unique interpretations of this classic ballet, with variations that span many cultures and genres. I personally witnessed an intermingling of Asian umbrella, Persian, and Russian dance, complete with a magician, drag queen, and a masticated limb of a gingerbread boy (courtesy of a rat) all rolled up into two acts. I was thankful for this unpretentious artful gumbo as it relaxed my mind in regards to the blazer and jean attire that haunted me in the mirror pre-show (I did however wear well polished dress shoes). The one and a half hour production was neither too short nor too long and the experience as a whole was...essential.

 

Without getting into the specifics of the composer, cast, theater house and so forth, know that this short thesis is more about the Nutcracker experience in general. You are not reading a review. This ballet is simply about a young girl's adoration for a toy that turns into a prince, about a dream that other dreams are made of. You are transported to a world of sugar plum fairies and you can't help but leave with the true sense of unguarded hope that this season is supposed to bring. Any version of this ballet worth its weight in frosted confections will accomplish this feat.

 

In your current location, regardless if you are a resident or visitor in town to see family, friends or attend a conference (how dare they send you at this time of year!), there is a good chance that The Nutcracker is playing somewhere near. You now have one "must-do" to pencil into the impending end squares of your desktop calendar. Below is a quick list of annual Nutcracker events to attend in some of YAHglobal.Com's partner cities. If you miss it this year, make sure you make it for the next 300+ days down the road. The experience will stay with you for a lifetime.

 

Ongoing performances in North America  *current YAHglobal.Com cities*

 

Canada

 

Vancouver, B.C.

Ballet B.C. presents Alberta Ballet's The Nutcracker @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre – Dec 29-Jan1/2011

 

U.S.

 

Honolulu, HI

Honolulu Ballet Hawaii The Nutcracker @ Neil S. Blaisdale Center – Until Dec. 18/2010

 

Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas Ballet Co. The Nutcracker @ Summerlin Library Performing Arts Center – Until Dec 23/2010

 

New York City, NY

George Balantine's The Nutcracker @ Lincoln Center – Until Jan 2/2011

 

Miami, FLA

George Balantine's The Nutcracker @ Arsht Center – Until Dec. 23/2010

 

Wish You Were Here, Editor - YAHglobal.Com

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In Sync For The Holidays

December 12, 2010

 

 

Here we are on a Saturday night, mid-December, right smack in the middle of the Holiday Season. I just left an online chat with members of YAH's team, dispersed throughout North America and Mexico. We're all headed to a Christmas party in our respective cities. Although we cannot be together at a (YAH) company sponsored office type shindig, we're still in sync, doing pretty much the exact same thing albeit in different time zones and/or climates. Some will be bundled in scarves, mitts and earmuffs on mountain top at an "apres ski" venue while others find themselves in flip flops and shorts with Christmas lit palm trees serving as the background. Yours truly will be somewhere in between, but I can tell you that an umbrella will be required. The dampness might put a slight damper on the early evening but things will pick up especially at exactly 11pm (PST) when we all agreed to do toast in unison, thousands of miles away from one another.

 

The point is that regardless of where you are, you have friends, family and loved ones all over the continent or world for that matter, who you are not able to be with on any given night during this season, yet you will all be sharing in the celebrations that this time of the year brings at the same time, at some point, even if you know it or not. So, follow the example set by our very own crew at YAHglobal.Com and coordinate with your own long distance "relations", pen (keyboard) pals, or that bold "expat" you admire so much and plan a specific date and time to raise glasses together. Then, as your New Year resolutions begin to formulate over the next two or three weeks, plan to visit at least one of these people within 6 months time. The further away the better. Do not treat this resolution as you would one the dozens you may have made before. This is not some 3 month gym membership that goes unused two weeks after popping the champagne at 11:59:59 pm Dec 31. When I say "plan" I mean it in the literal sense. Book a flight, hotel or at the very least put in your request for time off at work. We are defined by our experiences, not in our ability to save money for rainy days or for "toys". Instead of acquiring an extra inch of LCD TV dimension, increasing your "p" from 720 to 1080, and your "Hz" from 60 to 120 or 240 at some Boxing Day blowout, put that cash and credit to better use. Your memories will never be outdated or obsolete and you don't need to purchase an extended warranty to ensure this fact.

 

Wish You Were Here,  Editor - YAHglobal.Com

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The View From Kailua

October 29, 2010

Lanikai Beach

 

“That's my home right there.” says Bill in a raspy weathered voice, pointing across the turquoise expanse to the gold sanded shoreline where multi-million dollar villas nestle inconspicuously in between rows of palm trees. He withdraws his reach and once again rests both arms, hands and fingers intertwined and resting on his oak, correction, koa tree sized thighs as he sits hunched over on a ledge made of sand and volcanic rock. His permanently tanned, leathery face and white coifs peaking out from under his “North Shore” baseball cap give him away to be in his mid to late seventies although logic would normally dictate that there was no way that anyone born before 1940 could have kayaked alone to this ocean protrusion called Mokulua. The same rules don't apply to those that live on any of the eight islands that make up Hawaii. “I've lived everywhere...visited Tahiti, Bora Bora, Bali, the Mediterranean, seen it all. THIS is the best stretch of beach in the world, hands down.” Bill gave me the answer I came to Oahu looking for. All I did to instigate it was walk by and say “nice boat”.

 

Over a week ago I set out to test a widely popular claim that Kailua Beach on the windward side of Oahu was the best beach in the world. The submission to this claim was that no such title could truly exist as the topic alone is completely subjective to one's own experience and preferences. However I “needed” an excuse to take a trip to Hawaii and this was as good as any, if not better.

 

First of all, it's really Lanikai Beach that everyone is raving about, but due to the fact that Kailua shares the same stunning shoreline and is the one with the shops, eateries and serves as the doorway to it all, Kailua Beach gets most of the credit from the visiting public. However, Lanikai is more secluded with more abundant tropical flora, provides sanctuary to the most laid back sun worshipers on the island, and most importantly, stares directly at the mysterious twin Mokulua islands found under a mile and a half across gentle (depending on the wind that day) rolling waves and sharp coral reef. They are recognized in photographs frequently without knowledge of their name and/or location. The images are almost always taken from a camera person with toes dipped in the warm lapping ankle high shore break of Lanikai.

 

     Mokulua Islands Sailboat Kailua Beach Sea Turtle Mokulua Island

 

It was my first time ever stepping foot in a kayak, an embarrassment for someone who considers themselves a travel writer. I lied to the nice folks at Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks because the sign outside said that the trek to Mokulua was for intermediates. The personal safety waiver strangely made me feel better when I read the paragraph stating that if I had not returned by day's end, Kailua Search & Rescue would send out a boat and helicopter. Some would have been taken aback by this and possibly opted out of the journey, but I figured that at the very least my body would be retrieved and loved ones would not have been left wondering what ever happened. Not knowing is the worst part, right? Suffice to say I found myself to be a (self proclaimed) natural on a kayak, making it through the shore break that I was sure would tip me over (based on the 7 minute safety video I had to watch before the trek) and into the azure accented ocean. No turning back now. My adventure was blessed immediately as a large moss green and brown sea turtle popped up next to me in an almost startling manner. I fumbled to focus my waterproof camera and capture the perfect “cover” shot but nature, and dexterity, rarely cooperates in these moments. Either way, it's appearance was more uplifting than finding a $20 bill on the sidewalk at the start of the day.

 

While the other kayakers in the area were combing the shoreline reef and taking their time, I was on B line straight to an island that was sure to be the key to an answer to...something. An approximate hour later a tiny wave pushed the kayak onto the small sandy strip that made up Mokulua's “beach”. With other water crafts on the shore and their owners sprinkled about the immediate area, it seemed safe enough to leave my belongings tied up to the boat. One quick look at the terrain of Mokulua evidenced the fact that one best not be encumbered by too many accessories on the hike. "Waterproof camera, check!". Post apocalyptic black volcanic rock nested the off limits bird sanctuary that made up the whole body of the island, requiring hikers to navigate it's sharp edged circumference, a ludicrous attempt for anyone wearing flip flops, present company included. Green tide pools served as mini makeshift aquariums for a variety of species indigenous to the area and warranted inspection as each one was passed. I came upon one pool, deep enough to consider a bath, without an apparent bottom. Off came the sling pack and t-shirt and in I went, cautiously, as no one was in sight should I sink to my demise. The shaded water was cool and refreshing compared to the warm South Pacific that fed this pool and in solitude I floated on my back and looked up at the clear sky. Paradise.

 

     Mokulua Tide Pool           Mokulua Tide Bath           Mokulua Tide Bath

 

The next point of interest was heard before seen. A deep, continuous and echoing splash beckoned me to explore further. I overheard stories of an underwater cavern on Mokulua and this was most likely it. Apparently tide conditions must be exact for even an intermediate cave explorer to venture in and it didn't seem to my untrained eye that these were such conditions. The crevice walls had a fleshy appearance from the inanimate sea life clinging to the sides while the incoming ocean swirled around and eventually inside into the dark in an ominous manner. Search and Rescue would not find my remains here. Forget it. After another five minutes or so you begin to think its time to turn back. The sun appears to have run its course well over the high point in the sky, telling you that time is no longer on your side (I had no watch). But around the corner I spied what appeared to be a tour group, a disappointing sight at first for someone that planned on telling a tale of solitude in a barren wasteland in the middle of the ocean. My ears perked up when I heard the dark skinned Hawaiian guide exclaim to his followers “Are you guys ready to see what's next? Are you sure? Good, let's go!”. I scurried as fast as my loose fit flip flops would allow. How close can you get to a tour group without having to pay a fee? I kept about 10 meters behind.

 

There it was, nirvana. A massive indent into the island formed a jagged vertical rock ledge and significantly higher cliff with the “chunk” that probably broke off some thousand years ago finding itself separated out and into the ocean, too slippery to climb but still reachable by a quick swim across the u-shaped path of turquoise water that wrapped it close, as if to keep it under the loving arms of Mokulua. Someone who appeared to have been there for hours took what was likely their umpteenth leap from the ledge up above and into the crystal clear abyss below. A perfect splash followed by a reassuring reappearance had everyone in the group flinging their appendages off to the sides and climbing up that very ledge to do the same. I placed my flip flops somewhere nondescript (it took about 20 minutes to find them later), handed my waterproof camera to a complete stranger and jumped off the volcanic ledge like a sacrificial virgin. Five more times. Rinse, repeat. I was completely addicted in no time. Less obvious action would be found underneath the outcropped formation, as what appeared to be one solid piece of rock was but a shelf that one could swim 30 feet under and explore, if that someone had thought to bring snorkeling gear or at least goggles. Such is a casualty of spontaneous exploration without preliminary research, but I wouldn't have traded the element of surprise for expectation in this instance, not even for one second.

 

     Mokulua Rock Jumping Spot     Mokulua Rock Jumping     Mokulua Rock Jumping Spot

 

The trek back was no where near as labored due in part to the euphoric daze that I was feeling. I arrived back at Mokulua's beach to find fewer kayaks, and thus people, than there were when I first came upon this island. I prepared my gear, drank the remnants of lukewarm bottled water left in my wet bag, met, and chatted with the seventy something year old man with the nice boat. I attempted to take my time back across the ocean. The waves had picked up in size which would now work in favor of the direction back to shore as it catapulted the kayak forward from time to time, somewhat forcibly bringing the day to a conclusion at a faster rate than I wanted it to. Once ashore and free of the banana shaped and colored contraption that was my ocean vessel, I shuffled one last time through the golden powdery sands of Lanikai To Kailua, breathed in the air, glanced at the island in the distance that was no longer foreign and ran my hands along the pathway of palm trees that led back out to the main road.

 

My journey was complete, the investigation logged into my memory banks and contemplated on the ride back to Waikiki. Was this place the best beach in the world? Could I report that as a truth to anyone reading this narration? Let's put it this way, it's been 10 days since my time there and the question is still circulating through my cerebral cortex with no resolution in site, which in a way says something very prolific about the magical corridor of Kailua and Lanikai Beach. Besides, Bill says it is the best beach in the world, and who are we to argue with that?

 

Mokulua Islands Mailbox

 

Wish You Were Here,   Editor - YAHglobal.Com 

 

 

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Aloha

October 16, 2010

 

kailua beach

 

Please excuse our lack of updates on "YAH Yaps!". Since our launch back in August at the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, CA, we have been working diligently, expanding the YAHglobal.Com network. Our time in Orange County, California was amazing and we will continue to provide you with even more travel and entertainment information on the area in the near future.

 

We have spent the last two months in Mexico. Correction, the YAH Travel Team was in Mexico while yours truly was stuck at head office editing the content the team would send over on a daily basis, you know, doing my job. We launched many of your requested favorite cities in the region along with some very interesting articles about items ranging from touring the mysterious Mayan Ruins to discovering the best tequila related activites in the founding home of your favorite or feared shot glass filler.

 

Ok, so why the "Aloha" as the title to this blog update? Well, we are off to the island of Oahu, HI to "investigate" the continued claim by almost every travel periodical and site out there that Kailua Beach, on the windward side of the island, is one of, if not the best beach in the world. That is a bold statement made by many and it is our duty to put it to the test. I can already tell you that Kailua Beach will not win this title upon our return in 7 days. Before you balk at that statement, thinking that we already have some agenda to fill, some beach along the either a coastal edge of the Galapagos Islands or Bali that we have locked and loaded in our content repertoire, waiting and building your anticipation over the months (kind of like how long its taking to get to the point here) to unleash in dramatic fashion, well, no such luck. The title "Best Beach In The World" is 100% subjective and based upon individual experience. Some might expect scenery to be the number one criteria in selecting the champion. Others will choose activities (snorkeling, etc...) favorable to the site or perhaps something as simple as how many miles the stretch of sand goes, or doesn't go. You get the idea. So off we go to Kailua Beach to do our due diligence, not in order to put a title on one of nature's volcanic creations in the South Pacific, but to gather as much "intel" as we can in order to share it with you, our valued members, and perhaps inspire you to take the trip yourselves and see if it fits your own personal criteria as a "Best".

 

See you in a week. Mahalo!

 

Wish You Were Here

Editor

 

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Hi!

August 02, 2010

 

Welcome to You Are Here - YAHglobal.Com. If you are finding us at some point here during August in the dog days of summer you will see that we have chosen to launch the site in the fine city of Huntington Beach, California, specifically during the annual U.S. Open of Surfing. For those of you that don't know about this event, we admit that this is exactly the point. We could have launched in some large scale metropolis during some nationally televised event known to millions but instead we wanted to prove our model, or mission, to you. Our job at YAHglobal.Com is to inform you, the public, about the unique and interesting things that the world has to offer, while recommending places that provide you with the most value for your time and/or dollar. Do you really need to read time and time again about how great Disneyland is? No, but maybe you haven't heard about the county fair that roles through town only once a year that features the Coney Island original, but completely refurbished, all time classic tea cup ride. Do you really want to hear us rave about the new MaccaFrappaLattaCinno at Starbucks? Probably not. But maybe your interest will be peaked by stories of trecking through Hawaii's last unscathed outpost known as Molokai through natural rows of palm trees  in search of the perfect frozen coffee beverage known as the Mocha Mama, on this tiny island's Coffees of Hawaii plantation. So here we are, launching in this little beach city at the U.S. Open of Surfing instead of the U.S. Open of Golf, Cancun at Spring Break, or on New Year's Eve in NYC's Times Square.

 

The way we look at a business, be it a provider of a product or service, an attraction or activity is different than the other sites out there. We're not out to berate an establishment with negative reviews in order to settle some personal vendetta or make our paying advertisers look better in comparison. If extensive research by our team and analysis of public opinion uncovers that a place appears to be unanimously reviled then why list it, thus creating a huge pile of useless information that our users have to sort through to get to the "goods"? Its a pretty simple formula that seems to be lost on most travel and entertainment sources out there. Our general listings and featured items all have something special that makes them stand out above the multitude of others available. However, we do understand that our public still needs its fix for the familiar and demands to know where the nearest franchise fast food or coffee shop chain is found, along with their stand by retail outlets, so we make every effort to include at least a couple convenient locations to accommodate this need. We just won't list all 101 locations within the same region resulting in more information overload for the user, not to mention the plight of the unpaid interns we use for data entry who are in danger of getting irreversible Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from tapping away at the keyboards all day.

 

We are also not afraid to give our own opinion, through the "YAH Says..." reviews and "YAH Rated!" (best of's), vs. relying solely on aggregate ratings of anonymous public reviews.  Falsified member profiles are being created daily on these co-dependant sites by self serving business practitioners to skew rating reviews in their own benefit and to the demise of competition through slander. At the end of the day, how is the public to use any of this information to help them make an educated decision about "where to go?" or "what to do?". Don't get us wrong, we do place tremendous value on public opinion and have set up a "watch dog" system to ensure the validity of member profiles and to make sure that your voice is heard without distortion from the corporate americas. Our goal is to create trust between our users/members and YAHglobal.Com. We want the expectations you derive from combing our site to be met or exceeded, in a good way.

 

Our team is made up of an eclectic group of individuals with a passion for travel and discovery. Some of us are border line crazy, thus not afraid to try anything at their own personal risk in order to give an accurate reporting of some perilous new activity such as free diving in Great White Shark infested waters or tryin the newest "Eternal Inferno" flavor (where you actually sign a liability waiver) from a favorite local hot wings joint. Over the next few years some of us might not make it, so try not to get too attached to any one YAH personality. ;)

 

Outside of the recommendations arena, we have provided a Fun Stuff section with random (definitely) items loosely tied into the site. So even if you aren't searching for a new taco stand or cliff diving spot you can stay, browse, check out the photo and video galleries and some interesting Best & Worst lists. We've also incorporated a movie section soon to be filled with reviews, trailers, news and theater search for your region. And then of course as you are reading now, the "YAH Yaps!", which we promise after this point on will NOT be a self promoting "Look at me!" blog. We'd much rather tell you about the world we live in from the eye of the adventurous soul. So check back weekly to find out what Glamping is, or to learn the dangers of getting a tattoo while on vacation.

 

In conclusion (finally right?), we want to know your opinion on everything within the site so please feel free to sign up (free!) for membership so you can provide your input, tell is how awesome we are, or verbally bash our brains out in disagreement on a topic. We also want submissions. Are you an aspiring travel writer or simply want your voice heard? Send it to content@yahglobal.com and you may get published.

 

Wish you were here...

Editor

 

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