Posts Tagged With: adventure

Happy NEW Year 2016!!

New Year 2016

I’d just like to take a minute to wish everyone a really great year ahead. I always tend to get a little introspective with the beginning of each new year. It’s a great time for that. This is a good year for me to reflect on many things. 2016 marks 20 years since I first stepped foot outside of my country, thus being 20 years since I first got bit by the travel bug and began my life’s journey. Travel has been the most continuously rewarding thing in my life. It’s been my education, my growth, my inspiration and the architect of all the perspective that I have obtained. It’s shaped my life in more ways than I could have ever imagined. I’m so grateful for the experiences and opportunities that I’ve been very fortunate to have had over the past 20 years. I’ve learned so much, and it always fills me with joy to reflect on it all. I just wanted to say “thank you” to anyone who has ever paid attention to, read, liked, shared or commented on any story, photo, video or blog that I have ever posted (even if you were searching for the “dislike” button, lol). One of the very best parts of seeing the world is the excitement I get upon sharing its story with you all. I really do. Our world is a fascinating novel that we can all benefit greatly from by taking the opportunity to read a few pages from time to time. I can never wait to see what the next chapter will bring.

I’m not sure if this year will be “better” or “bigger” than any other, and to be honest, it doesn’t have to be. I just want it to be new. New experiences, new friendships, new inspiration…a new story to be told. Perhaps just something different that I haven’t done before. I think it will seem bigger and better just by trying new things, pursuing new goals, going new places and interacting with new people…all which result in new experiences and fresh ink in the diary of life. We all have a story to tell, and it is unique to each and every one of us. It’s our experiences that make up the content of each page of our life. Those last forever. At the end of the day, that’s all you can take with you when you’re gone…not your social status, your possessions, your money, your “followers” or “popularity” on some social media website. None of that matters because anybody can have that. Not everybody can have the unique life experiences that you create for yourself…and no one can tell the same story as you can.

So, this year my goal is to reflect on the past 20 years and to share some of the most inspiring things, people, places and life lessons, etc. that I’ve been able to experience on my personal journey. I hope to continue to have opportunities to tell the World’s story, one which will continue to shape my own. I hope to connect with people in a way that will inspire them to go out and create wonderful new experiences and stories of their own.

Cheers to new experiences and many great new stories for all of us in 2016!

Damian

#GringoWithAGreenBag20

 

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Merry Christmas…Happy Holidays 2015!

Looks like I’m not the only one with a green bag this year… ūüôā

Christmas-2015-GWAGB

The Gringo – and the Santa – With A Green Bag would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas (Feliz Navidad) and a wonderful Holiday season! ¬†Let’s all make great memories!

-Damian

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Moments in “Time”

Time(Calaveras Big Trees State Park – California)

Life goes by pretty fast. Time is the one thing we can’t control. All we can do is make the best of it. Without moments of pause and reflection, we can’t really appreciate time. Most people are allowed a lot of time in life, but we often frown upon it because we feel we don’t have enough of it or that it is passing by faster than we’d like it to. I believe time should be measured in moments, not by clocks or years on the calendar. We can’t slow time down, but when we slow down and enjoy moments in time, the less we will worry about “having” time and the more we will enjoy “living” in it.

#GringoWithAGreenBag

#FreedomTour

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Fall “Freedom Tour” Part 1 in the books!

Inyo National Forest

Just wrapped up the first leg of the #FreedomTour 2015 (literally…got my knee sleeved up as a result of some rugged hiking and shifty-legged Glidecam work. Took me a few embarrassing attempts to jump up on that rock, lol). The first stop was in the Eastern and Western Sierras of Central & Northern California (my home state). It could very well be the most beautiful and naturally diverse state in the union (but I’ll leave that judgement for a later day…once I’ve seen all 50 of those bad boys.)

Autumn in California…we’ve got some colors too folks. ūüôā More photos and video clips coming soon. Walking and gliding (sometimes stumbling) through nature…nothing quite like it.

#FreedomTour 2015

 

 

 

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“Freedom” Tour kicks off Oct 5!

Freedom Tour 2015

October is in the house! Next week I’m kicking off my Fall “Freedom” Tour 2015! I’ll be visiting 3 new destinations over the next few months…a journey to explore and highlight the diversity of this beautiful planet. Mountains…Culture…Sea…ending the tour in Eleuthera, which means “Freedom” in Greek. We are free to¬†‚Ä™#‚Äétravel‚Ĩ, free to¬†‚Ä™#‚Äéexplore‚Ĩ, free to¬†‚Ä™#‚Äélearn‚Ĩ, free to¬†‚Ä™#‚Äédiscover‚Ĩ…and most importantly, free to open our minds and gain a better understanding and appreciation of the world through simple interactions with people who are different, through learning about unique cultures and by establishing a personal connection with nature and the environment. Stay tuned for all the¬†‚Ä™#‚ÄéGWAGB‚Ĩ¬†updates and photos…and please connect with me on Instagram for real-time updates from each destination ūüôā

Instagram – Gringo With A Green Bag

#‎GringoWithAGreenBag‬

#‎FreedomTour‬

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Finding a true “Oasis in the Desert”

Jeri

(Jericoacoara, Brazil)

If you spend enough time in a desert landscape – under a scorching sun, surrounded by endless monotone dunes whose wind-carved domes blend seamlessly into the next – sometimes you start to imagine things. The “mirage” is a real thing. I often imagine buckets of cold beer and a Vegas pool party (as I enjoyed when I stayed at the actual Mirage). But sometimes you stumble upon a real life oasis. The endless horizon of white turns into¬†a revitalizing mosaic of green and blue. Wild animals graze in the goodness of nature’s gift to this remote and barren land. My eyes, though stinging from the sunscreen-laced sweat dripping down my forehead, have not fooled me on this day…even with the bikini-clad woman trekking the dunes in the middle of nowhere (I’m surely suffering the effects of dehydration…or am I?) This is the contrasting beauty of life. I tell myself to take a moment, pause, breathe it in…and promise that the next time I hold a glass with an ice cold beverage in my hand I will raise it in its honor.¬†‚Ä™#‚ÄéJeri‚Ĩ

Jeri - 3

Jeri - 2(Now, I know my eyes must be fooling me here…)

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Gringo With A Green Bag – Finding “Balance” in Guatemala

It’s just something I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do ūüôā

Bella Guatemala Travel

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¡Vamos a México!

GWAGB

¬°Orale! ¬†The Gringo With A Green Bag was representing the Mexican banner this past weekend at the Travel and Adventure Show in Los Angeles. What a great time we had! The spirit of the fiesta was in the air¬†and there was plenty of travel inspiration¬†to be absorbed in an atmosphere full of zesty cultural flavors, interactive exhibits, music & dance and travel professionals from all parts of the globe there to share information about the world’s hottest destinations. The Mexico booths were packed ALL¬†weekend long and I was happy to be a part of all the¬†acci√≥n! Stay tuned for my video highlights, interviews and just a bunch of wacky GWAGB fun…once I recover from the “virtual” travel hangover.

After the fiesta, it’s time for siesta…

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2015 Travel & Adventure Show in LA – Feb 21-22

Hey amigos! If you’re in the LA area on Feb 21-22 come on down to the Travel & Adventure Show, the premiere travel event in the U.S.! The Gringo With A Green Bag will be there to¬†cover all the action, as I will be doing some travel documentary and video journalism work to highlight some of the best travel destinations and experiences the world has to offer! Come and see what’s hot in the wonderful world of travel¬†and stay to see some of the event’s featured speakers, including Rick Steves, Samantha Brown, Pauline Frommer and many, many more! So dust off your favorite safari hat, bring your adventurous spirit and come say hi to the Gringo if you see me out there with the green bag and camera (or microphone) in hand. ūüôā See you there!

(Event sponsored by the Travel Channel)

GWAGB

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Humbled in the Jungle – Calakmul, Mexico

Calakmul - 1

What is it about trekking through the jungle that sends omenously cool vibrations sprinting down my spinal column? It’s wild, unpredictable, mysterious – kind of like walking into a strip club in Vegas on your 21st birthday – it’s just an exhilarating (and intimidating) place to be. So when I heard about this massive ancient Mayan site embedded in the remotest of remote¬† jungles near the southern end of¬†Mexico’s Yucat√°n¬†Peninsula, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to make the trip down to check out the remains of what was once among the most influential¬†sites in the history of the Mayan Empire: ¬†Calakmul.

From what I understood, it was a bit of an effort to get there. There’s only 1 hotel within a 60km radius and if you Google “Calakmul” on a map you end up with a location marker¬†that lands¬†in the middle of absolute nowhere within a huge¬†Biosphere Reserve just north of the Guatemalan border, several¬†hours away from anything remotely familiar to the average Mexico traveler. This is the beauty of traveling to places like this. Only the adventurous few will make the effort, so the experience will feel unique and untainted and you’ll never have to worry about crowds, traffic jams or crying toddlers in strollers begging for ice cream while you pass through the turnstile. (No, I’m not a big fan of Disneyland, you guessed correctly.) An exit south off of highway 186, which slices horizontally through the state of Campeche,¬†took me on a¬†long, lonely road flanked by endless miles of a subtropical forest that has seen¬†only the most intrepid¬†of travelers pass through its sequestered corridor.

Calakmul - 2

After a lengthy¬†drive deep¬†into the jungle, with every revolving digit of the odometer reminding¬†you that you are advancing one frame further from civilization, I arrived at the Calakmul visitor’s center/museum. Plenty to see there while killing time, but my eagerness to explore had ignited my appetite so I grabbed some Doritos and an empanada and then hopped in a van with a few other travelers to make our way down another long (dirt) road, which really reassured me of the remoteness of this ancient wonder. Upon arrival to the ruins¬†site, I performed my typical jungle-trekking ritual of mosquito repellent-bathing, calf-stretching and a¬†second¬†round of mosquito repellent-bathing. There was a lovely scenic walking path leading to the actual ruins, passing through an expanding canopy¬†of dense forest with filtered sunbeams penetrating the jungle roof like a laser light show transmitted from heaven. The environment here is raw, stimulating, overwhelming to the senses…it kind of reminds me of walking through¬†the olive & pickle market in Spain back in the day. The deeper I get into it, the more I start salivating. I finally arrive to the actual ruins and am immediately thrown into the set of Apocalypto (“please don’t let me run into a black jaguar on its lunch break”, was my first thought). The ruins were imposingly present throughout the area and seemed in a very natural state. I climbed to the top of the first structure I saw. The view (and the 60+ ¬†steps) took my breath away.

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Standing above the jungle canopy atop the remains of an ancient structure of a kingdom that once rivaled Tikal as one of the grandest and most powerful cities¬†of¬†the Mayan world will¬†quickly halt your mind into “pause” mode – and then force you to reflect on the former reality and historical scope¬†of your surroundings. This was the land of rulers and kings…the turf of brave and brutal warriors and conquerors (and angry little monkeys, but we’ll get to that). The view of adjacent temples popping up through the blanket of vegetation in the distance is one that your brain will quickly file into the category of “Holy Shit – Awesome!”. Several large structures¬†were scattered throughout the area, and if each one could speak I’m sure it would have countless tales spanning centuries of discovery, war, peace, famine and wonder. (That, or it would tell me to “clean your shoes before walking on my face, jerk!”) The surrounding jungle sprawls out endlessly in all directions, and the louring echo¬†of howler monkeys adds an eerie soundtrack to the surreal¬†scene that quietly envelopes you. When you sit there and think about the history that a place like this has¬†written in its fraction¬†of existence on Earth, and the countless lives that lived and were lost here, you are humbled…and you are also reminded of your very fortunate place in the annals of time. We live in a time where science answers many of the¬†natural wonders that the original inhabitants¬†of this land would never understand…a time where technology allows us to connect with and discover the farthest corners of the globe…a time where you won’t get sacrificed for being on the losing side in a game of kickball. As I explored Calakmul, I remained humbly cognizant of its historical significance. I walked among symbols of great power and strolled through ancient hallways of artistry and wonder.

Calakmul - 5

Now let’s get to these monkeys that were ready to engage with me in a full-on turf war. What began as a cordial initial encounter, with the natural underpinnings of curiosity, quickly turned into a Clint Eastwood “Get off my lawn” scenario where the native tree-dwellers began to express to me just how peeved they were with my presence in their “jungle hood”. I hadn’t been briefed on the hospitality of the local monkey community before entering the area, therefore I just continued to go about my business, observe them, photograph them and proudly reinforce to them (by standing my ground) that there wasn’t gonna be any Planet Of The Apes-inspired ego flung in my direction. What WAS flung in my direction, however, was a tree branch straight towards my head by one of the two feisty little hairy bastards that I was shooting¬†in the trees above, followed by some maniacal¬†gestures of chest-beating and flashing of the teeth (those teeth are no joke!). This isn’t how I typically like to be received into a new place. The capuchins in Costa Rica¬†posed for my camera like girls auditioning for a Lowrider magazine cover on Instagram. There was no “Welcome” mat on these two monkeys’ front porch. They began shaking the tree branches and beating on their chests like little King Kong wannabies. Oh, hell no. It was getting serious now. I was dealing with some bonafide bullies. As soon as that tree branch came flying towards my head, I was reminded of my surroundings in this “wild” and “unpredictable” jungle environment. This isn’t like being at the zoo where you’re able to laugh and make faces¬†at an animal and feel safe from retaliation due to the security provided by the double-paned glass or steel cage that lies between you and the animal. This was the wild wild west of Mexican jungles – untamed and virtually unexplored – and these monkeys were the last holdouts of their village who weren’t gonna backdown from any foreign “bandits” armed with cameras and binoculars. I must admit, the intimidation tactics did work. (Again, those teeth are no joke!) I didn’t stick around too much longer to find out of they were bluffing. I wasn’t in the mood for a face full of poo that day, or a couple of jungle hoodlums trying to bully me for my bananas. Their aggressive behavior was enough for me to wrap up my photo shoot and quickly move along. Monkeys 1 – Gringo 0.

Calakmul - 6

The fact that you can visit¬†one of the world’s most fascinating remnants of ancient times and experience the full ambience¬†of the natural world that surrounds it makes Calakmul a “must-see” destination on anyone’s Mexico travel list. Here, you can enjoy Mayan ruins that rival all of the grandeur and scale of the ruins of Chichen-Itza, but in a much more exotic and remote¬†(and far less manicured) environment. You’ll also escape the crowds of day-trippers and local vendors trying to negotiate the “good price for you” sale of painted jaguar masks and plastic pyramid paper weights. If Chichen-Itza is Starbucks, then Calakmul is your out-of-the-way coffee shop reserved for enjoying an authentic blend in a quiet¬†environment. Calakmul offers its visitors a chance to enjoy some seriously¬†impressive ruins and experience the environment the way the ancient Maya saw it – in a natural state, remotely enclosed by the very jungle that witnessed its rise and fall. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a close encounter with the modern-day¬†native inhabitants of this exotic land…the wildlife. There is an abundance. Just watch your back. As soon as a tree branch comes flying¬†towards your head it might be your cue to continue your tour and move on to the next structure. As I was reminded, it’s best to never outstay your welcome in the wild…a lesson I also learned in the chaotic urban jungle of Mardi Gras in New Orleans back in 1996, but that’s a story for another day.

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