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Author: Stephan

The Official Bird List

The Official Bird List

I started off with high hopes for a regular “Birders’ Digest” that would round up all of the mediocre-to-crappy-but-identifiable bird photos captured during our travels. That worked pretty well for our first few months, but once we hit Asia, it kind of fell apart. Lack of libraries and English field guides made self-identification difficult, and even if we managed, against all odds, to find an English-speaking bird expert, they may not know a useful English translation for the species. There…

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The Kindness of Strangers

The Kindness of Strangers

One thing that continually astonished us on this trip was just how many amazing, generous people we met throughout our travels. People we didn’t know, who owed us nothing, yet treated us with the kindness typically reserved for close friends and family. If some of them seem familiar, we’ve shared parts of a few of these before, but we thought they deserved their own special post. These weren’t the only incredible people we ran into on our trip, just a…

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Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye

Years ago, I watched a biking video that highlighted a rider returning to his hometown on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. A few years later, the same rider rode a terrifying-looking ridge through the Cuillin Mountains on Skye, showcasing an amazing, rugged coastline and incredible views over the mountains. It became one of those places that I had filed away in the back of my head to consider visiting someday. I had almost forgotten about the videos, when I…

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Edinburgh

Edinburgh

We haven’t necessarily favored all the large capital cities we’ve visited, at least when compared to less crowded parts of the same countries (Ljubljana and Rome being notable exceptions); but with a population of less than a half million people, we thought we’d give Scotland’s small capital a chance to charm us. We spent one morning exploring Holyrood Park, a 650-acre greenspace near the city center whose prominent peak is called Arthur’s Seat. Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano that…

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Lakeland

Lakeland

I actually knew nothing of Lake District National Park (also known as Lakeland) prior to Jenn suggesting we spend a few nights there. She’s usually pretty reliable for making good choices about how we spend our time, though (see also: this entire freakin’ trip), so I dug up a great looking farmhouse in the middle of nowhere and booked us several nights. Farmhouses have inevitably been our some of our favorite accommodations on this trip, and I’m always a little…

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Stonehenge

Stonehenge

About 90 miles southwest of London stands the famous prehistoric monument of Stonehenge. Though the stone circle is the most well-known monument in the area, the history of the area is actually far more substantial than just the visible rocks. More than 4,000 years prior to any construction within the circle of Stonehenge, there exists evidence of the area being used for spiritual or burial purposes. Large wooden poles stood in the area during the Mesolithic period, and leading up…

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Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland

After a number of days driving up the west coast of Ireland, I noticed that fuel prices and speed limits suddenly seemed a little different. While the Republic of Ireland is an independent country and a land of Euros and km/h, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and specifies things in GBP and MPH. I believe I may have inadvertently incited some road rage in the cars behind me when I first entered some small towns, all with…

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Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s busy downtown area is built into the concentric rings of canals (the ‘Canal Belt’), which date back to the 17th century, and include the Singel, Herengracht (Gentleman’s Canal), Keizersgracht (Emperor’s Canal), and Prinsengracht (Prince’s Canal). Originally used as defensive moats, they eventually became employed for merchant ships bringing goods into the city. Today, you can even find floating houses and shops along the canals, such as the Bloemenmarkt – Amsterdam’s famous, bustling flower market where every variety and color…

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Paris

Paris

A wistful, “ah, Paris!” was the reaction of nearly everyone who heard we were headed there. The name evokes a hundred images: the city of lights, the city of romance, the capital of fashion, the home of world-renowned chefs in Michelin starred restaurants and some of the most famous monuments and museums in the world. I wondered if it could possibly live up to its reputation. The public transit system in Paris is wonderful. Metro trains arrived as frequently as…

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Given to Fly

Given to Fly

Way back before we started out on this journey, Jenn had mentioned something about paragliding in Switzerland. When we were in Peru, we had briefly looked into soaring off the cliffs in Lima, but the calm skies meant that none of the shops were open. After our first hike in Zermatt, we immediately realized that, of any weather-related cancellations for our adventure, lack of wind was unlikely to be one of them. We woke up to cold, clear air and…

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