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TravelingSloan’s Top Spots

I’ve always been told you should never pick favorites but that’s bad advice. Picking favorites allows us to process and pull out things that have shaped us. Through our travels, we have compiled a nice little list of a few of our favorite places on earth. The list will continue to grow but it’s a good refection of the things we love and those that have impacted on our lives.

Favorite cities: Louisville, Kathmandu, Bangkok, Paris, Beijing and Amsterdam

Favorite vacations: New cities that need exploring, the Appalachian Trail, Red River Gorge, Thailand beaches and any kind of road trip

Favorite drive: Through the countryside of Scotland; on the windey roads of the Smokey Mts; on motorcycle through northern Thailand

Favorite Wonders: The Himalaya Mountains; Great Wall of China; Lalibela, Ethiopia; English countryside; the clear waters off Thailand; the rolling mountains of Appalachia

Favorite Overlooked Spots: Sheffield, England; Saint- German, Paris, France; Shigatse, Tibet; Mae Sai, Thailand

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Bucket List

The idea of a bucket list was made popular by Jack Nickolson and Morgan Freeman in a movie appropriately named, The Bucket List. I however proudly confess that I was an early adopter of the bucket list idea. As a kid, I use to dream of accomplishing things that in hindsight seem a bit crazy. I wrote out a list when I was twelve that included things like running the Iditarod, climbing K2 and playing in the NFL. Needless to say, I fell short of accomplishing most of those things.

After moving to Nepal in my mid-twenties, I sat down and wrote a second bucket list with dreams that seemed to fit me a bit more. Now that I am in my early thirties, I thought it appropriate to write out a new bucket list and share it with you. The following are things I hope to accomplish before I hit my fiftieth birthday- 18 years and counting.

1. Visit 6 of the 7 continents (forget Antarctica!)
2. Camp overnight on the Great Wall of China
3. Become fluent in a second language- really fluent!
4. Get upgraded to business or first class
5. Summit a peak in the Himalaya Mountains
6. Hike to Everest Base Camp
7. Visit Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye (Scotland).
8. Complete a Masters degree
9. Drive across the US with my beautiful wife and our great dane Sadie
10. Visit the legendary San Diego Zoo
11. Run a marathon under 5 hours
12. Visit Lhasa, Tibet
13. Live and work in Tibet for an extended time.
14. Take my wife to Beijing and the Great Wall of China
15. See the towns, people and desert of Saudi Arabia
16. Take a trip to the remote island of Socotra, Yemen
17. Take the train from Beijing to Lhasa
18. Ride a motorcycle around Thailand
19. Attend an event at the Summer Olympic Games
20. Attend the Kentucky Derby
21. Stay overnight on a canal boat in Amsterdam
22. Ride a horse
23. Write a book that needs to be written
24. Take my wife on her dream vacation- Australia
25. Visit the Taj Mahal in Agra, India
26. Go sailing overnight in a sailboat

What would you add to the list?

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Red River Gorge

I have always been a mountain boy. I grew up in the foothills of the Cherokee Mountains just a short drive from the Smokey Mountains in rural Tennessee. I was quick to leave and find a home in the city and then overseas (in the mountains might I say)  but I never completely left the country. The mountains are in my blood and when I really want to feel at home, I have to be in them.

Now that Sarah and I live in the city, we both get the “itch” to be in the wilderness- to get away from the busy streets and hectic life. Just this week we felt that way and decided to make the two and half hour drive to the Red River Gorge in eastern Kentucky. It’s not the Smokey Mountains but it’s beautiful and always proves to be  a relaxing and restful place.

You may be thinking, “what in the world would you do just sitting there in the woods?” That’s exactly the point. Getting away allows me to find rest and gives me a chance to reflect. For the last two days I have sat in a hammock and devoured Marilynne Robinson’s book Gilead. I look forward to reading her book Home next. “Unplugging” from life allows me to find real rest, refocus on the things that truly matter, have great conversations with my wife and rediscover the beauty in creation.

As much as it pains me, I will give away my secret location at the Gorge. My favorite, actually, the only place we stay when we come to the Gorge is at Lago Linda Hideaway. It’s a beautiful hidden area with a small lake at its center, surrounded by several cabins and many places to camp. It’s quiet, close to great hiking and even better climbing and best of all it’s cheap. During the week we rent a small one room cabin for $40 a night. From our cabin we are steps from the lake where we swim and canoe and a 10 minute drive from the best rock climbing east of Colorado. The roads out here are windy, which makes Sarah sick, but it gives me a thrill to drive them like I’m in a rally car race. We love the locals here and enjoy the culture of Appalachia.

I love traveling the world. I love seeing new and many times breathtaking places. It’s amazing to think one can spend his life traveling the world and never see it all. But if I am honest with you (and with myself), I have never found a place that feels so restful- so like home, as I do when I pack up the car and plant my feet in the mountains. I find it comforting to know where home is.

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London Favorites

 

Every traveller at one time or another dreams of visiting the grand city of London and this vagabond is no different. I grew up hearing stories of my mother’s time in London during the 70’s. She was a pretty tame college kid so most of her stories were of Shakespearian plays, quaint little side streets, the sights and the over all British culture. My love for culture and travel grew up from the roots of her time in London.

This particular trip to London was not my first, it was actually my second, but it was the first with Sarah and I was looking forward to 6 beautiful sun-soaked days in late April. Who was I kidding? It rained every single day we were there. After the first few days we realized the rain was not going away. So after a few conversations, a warm cup of tea and new umbrella; we determined within ourselves to have a “jolly good time” in this wonderful city.

We saw Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Westminster, a play in the West End and most of the other things a traveller should see. It was lovely and we had great time but by far our favorite time was not at the sights or in the history. Our favorite moments came from simply spending time with our friends.  I (Nathaniel) am privileged to have two close friends who live in London and each of them showed us great hospitality. If you ask me, the hospitality my British friends showed us rivaled anywhere else we have traveled in the world. They opened their home, shared their rooms, invited us to meals, and took days off work to show us the city.

Come to think of it, the more I travel and especially as I go back to the same places, I am realizing that my favorite part of being a traveller is the friends I make along the way. Thanks to all my global friends. You have opened your home and heart so many times. You make travels truly meaningful.