Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
At 1:30am as I lay on the cement step outside the bathroom. I thought, “Hmm, why am I on the ground? How did this happen?” Leaving Los Angeles for a summer of sun in Samoa and the South Pacific, I had no idea about the Survivor Stories that would unfold so quickly.
I had eaten the chicken at dinner, apparently a mistake that night.
During the dark hours before dawn I fainted at the edge of the bathroom steps and there I regained consciousness, scraped and bruised on both arms and chin. I guess when I needed to run to the bathroom again and again I should have woken George, especially after falling, but I was so stunned that I ended up face-planted on the ground. Once back in our room I lay on the mat, moaning. George woke up and asked what was wrong. After hearing my tale of woe he offered to help. Because of his concern, and despite the many earlier explosions, I was finally able to rest.
This video shows some of the gorgeous beauty of Virgin Cove, our nighttime arrival and the many steps to the bathroom. All aspects of travel are not beautiful but some of them do make us appreciate better the postcard days!
Video: Drama at Virgin Cove
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February 17, 2012 | 12:51 pm
Posted Richard Bangs
There is a place whose people have been on a never-ending quest to achieve a concord between life’s jagged puzzle pieces. And some believe they have found its secrets.
Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong: three pearls in one exquisite setting. Each distinct, yet bound together by a cultural veneration of harmony. Just as a wick needs a flame, some of us can’t live without exploring our existence, and I inevitably find myself turning to the East and the wisdom of the Ancients in search of the roots of the human desire for harmony.
Harmony implies balance and the ability to integrate different elements into a pleasing unity. It incorporates the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang, opposite forces that come together to form a whole.
Chinese philosophers and religious leaders have long honored harmony as an ideal. Confucius, the great Chinese thinker, spoke of “harmony without uniformity.” He taught that the world is full of differences and contradictions, but that righteous people should try to balance them to achieve a vital equilibrium.
Taoists believe that by following practices that achieve balance in daily life, they gain harmony with the universe. And the Buddha said that for the enlightened one, harmony is his joy, his delight and his love.
Read the rest of this article….
Watch the new PBS special, “Richard Bangs’ Adventures with Purpose: The Pearl River Delta-Quest for Harmony” airing now nationally. Check local listings.
February 13, 2012 | 11:16 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
George and I had wanted to visit there before but it was the first time the dice of price allowed it to happen! Our two weeks in the Cook Islands included kayaking, hammock swinging and two trips to the incredible jewel- toned Aitutaki Lagoon with Teking Tours.
Kit Herring of the Backpacker’s Handbook was recently there for a glorious third time and offered to share his historical knowledge of this spectacular location. Enjoy!
When Captain William Bligh let go the anchor of the Bounty off the west coast of Aitutaki a few days before the famous mutiny, he beheld an island and a culture far different than we can possibly understand today. He did not visit the whole island, but rather only the area loosely termed Arutanga. Always a meticulous diarist, he recorded some interesting facts. Of the natives in Tahiti he had written, “Inclination seems to be the only binding law, marriage in this country for a woman will get her a husband if she pledges…”
He continues about the inhabitants of Aitutaki, “The people are just the same as those of the…Isles… but are more docile and inoffensive.”
The account from his logbook of the discovery reads as follows:
“At daylight however we discovered an island of a moderate height with a round conical hill…A number of small Keys were seen from the mast.”
“They were all around with trees and the large island had a most fruitful appearance. The shore was bordered with flat land, with innumerable Cocoa Nut and other trees. I saw no smoke or any sign of inhabitants.”
He writes that, “(T)hey called this island Whytootackee, ” and that upon his first meeting with the natives, “I was however agreeably surprised by a visit from four men in a single canoe… Two of the men had each a large Mother of Pearl shell hung on their breasts… On being told I was the Erree (chief), the principal person immediately came and joined noses with me and presented me his shell and tyed it around my neck… Notwithstanding they said there were no Hogs, Yarros, of tarrow… they called them by name, and I rather inclined to believe they were imposing upon me… The Chief of the canoe took possession of everything I had given… a knife, some nails, Beads and a looking glass.”
He goes on to say that two locals wished to overnight on his ship. Apparently some of his crew took the idea of immediate friendship in a rather liberal sense. “After the natives were gone I heard that some of my johns had engaged to bring women off in the morning, and it was therefore the reason perhaps that two of them designed to sleep on board.”
We have no reason to disbelieve his observations. Any navigator who sailed in an open boat, as Bligh did after the mutiny, over several thousands of miles of the unexplored open Pacific to safety at the nearest European settlement, Batavia, now the capital city of Jakarta in Indonesia, deserves respect and validation. Regardless of the circumstances that resulted in his being tossed from the Bounty with scant provisions by a crew that had become enchanted with the terrible beauty of Polynesia, he was a man who set forth to record all he saw.
But life on this tranquil outpost of Oceanic civilization received the first of its death blows at his hands, although Bligh could not have understood the tragedy about to unfold when he touched shore. The story of the coming of the missionaries in 1821 is well known and does not need to be repeated here. The tales of forced conversion, the bringing of diseases and epidemics that the “Christians” blamed on the Polynesian gods, the later blackbirding of the population and the relentless efforts of the Europeans to stamp out the old ways—these stories are horrific and yet accepted today as a matter of course.
With their bodies’ physical beauty covered by the whites in heavy nineteenth-century civilized clothing, the essence of the pre-contact natives was smothered irrevocably. Today no oral traditions remain of that first contact, and the missionaries did nearly a complete job of eliminating the old spirituality and the old ways.
The author Jared Diamond has noted that perhaps the biggest mistake humankind ever made was to quit the hunter/gatherer way of life and settle into towns and cities, where manipulative leaders were then able to force stifling societal rules and repression on hapless clans of formerly free people.
Whether or not this generalization holds much truth is still a matter of debate, but in Aitutaki the answer is painfully obvious.
Perhaps the wisest response we have to First Contact comes from the log of James Cook. Upon encountering the indigenous inhabitants of Australia for the first time, he recounted that they shouted at the English sailors an incomprehensible phrase. At the time no one in the explorers’ party understood the meaning of the words. Later they were found to impart a simple message: “Go away!”
Thanks for reading and for all your comments on our blog!
Tell us: Where do you want to go next?
February 6, 2012 | 10:50 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
After seven years at sea and a year in Asia with my husband, George, I have touched ground in 108 countries. But we are far from the top elite of this hobby. This past December, we met Lee Abbamonte at a Traveler’s Century Club luncheon. He has currently checked off 301 of the world’s 321 countries! (December 2011 Traveler’s Century Club Meeting with Joan Schwarz, Pam Barrus (VP TCC), Lee Abbamonte (301 countries), and Lisa & George Rajna.)
My family has been counting, too. My parents rang in the New Year with us to celebrate their seventieth birthdays and nearly forty-nine years of marriage. My sister counted and collected over eight hundred photos that represented every decade of their lives, from images of their great-grandparents to their grandchildren, including shots of hilarious 1960s hairstyles, and our home’s mod wallpaper during the seventies.
Using the fantastic site, www.picturemosaics.com, we turned our collective photos into a photo mosaic masterpiece. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but this photo mosaic was so impressive that when we hung it in the photo and art gallery on the Voyager of the Seas to surprise our parents, total strangers inquired whether the piece might be for sale! I told them, “You can’t have ours, but I recommend you make your own!” Naturally my dad said, “Sell it to them! We can hang on the wall in their house also!”
I love the photo mosaic and I love the personal history it represents. I think I may create one from the five years George and I have spent together, including shots from our travels. Here is a novel and unique art project for travel pictures and now I can count one more important aspect of my own life.
Article first published as Count Something Important on Technorati.
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Our new video: Bahia de Kino, Sonora, Mexico:
January 30, 2012 | 12:53 pm
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
When I met Halle at her book reading recently, I thought about my first trip to the Giza Pyramids. I remember that day like it was yesterday although I visited the great archeological site over thirty years ago! My family was cruising on a Greek ship at the time and the vessel stopped in Egypt. The day we went to the pyramids our bus caravan was escorted by armed guards. We carried a large sack of fruit from the Maitre D’ and a brief but terrifying camel ride still burns in my memory, I remember seeing the Giza plateau and climbing through the sand and wondering, “Who built this? Why?” and, “Are there more sights like this to see in other countries?” Reading Halle’s book reminds me of my travels in Egypt, on sea-going cruises, and around other parts of the world. I hope you enjoy my review of her book and are inspired to look for your own questions AND answers!
Halle’s vibrant examples and personal tales draw me in to her writing style and I feel I am also sailing in a private Nile cruise on Momo’s boat, The Alfandia (which means The Old King).
The novel talks about Halle’s tour company, her trips to Egypt, and her relationship with herself, her partner, and travel companions. I feel like I was at the Philee Temple along with her and experiencing the events. Her personal tales like “the yellow fire” remind me of my own travels and how making your dreams come true can include painful moments while on the road. I appreciate that Halle shares all aspects of the journey, not just the pretty parts; I would love to be included in the “bad kids” tours! Her discussions of opening chakras, past lives and ancient religions seem perfectly in tune with the history of Egypt and the sites they visit. Her descriptions are accurate and make me want to laugh out loud as I remember similar moments on my own trips: “If you’ve ever driven in Athens, you’ve driven in Cairo, five lanes of cars driving on three lanes of streets.” One of the most noticeable things in this book is that in every section it is clear that Halle loves to travel and loves Egypt, as well as the life she has created with her partner, Greg.
After reading this book, I think most people would want Halle as a personal guide. However, the reader may also pick up incredible travel tips, such as visiting the Luxor Temple late at night as to have the place all to yourself. That temple and its light show were some of the most memorable moments I myself had while in the Nile Valley.
halleHalle has seen sights in Egypt that many of us have missed, for example the Temple of Seti I at Abydos and the Library at St. Catherine’s (where many of us could not get an invitation!) Learning about these gems wakes up my travel lust and gets me ready for more adventures.
I first was drawn to Halle’s story as she calls herself the “Julie the Cruise Director” of Spirit Quest Tours. I have personally worked on board the Love Boat and other cruise lines and enjoy that she uses that same title to convey what an incredible travel host she is for all her guests.
She says, “Many people think they come here for a vacation, when they really come to heal a hole in their hearts.” Whether cooking an incredible Thanksgiving dinner in Egypt or attending a memorial for a friend, Halle creates a spiritual zone around her. “Our lives are braided like DNA, and we so often fail to recognize that we are here, not by ourselves, not with our spouse, our children, our friends, but with everyone we touch, and everyone they touch and, by extension, the whole world.”
While reading this book, you will enjoy a trip to Egypt and quite possibly to your inner self.
Article first published as Red Goddess Rising by Halle Eavelyn on Technorati.
Date: February 2, 2012
Time: 6-8 PM
Place: Luxe Hotel Sunset Blvd, 11461 Sunset Blvd.
Special Guest: Johnny Jet
RSVP today as space is limited: http://www.facebook.com/events/282922671769066/?context=create
Please join LACOT and We Said Go Travel for this evening of hors d’oeuvres, wine, and conversation with special guest Johnny Jet.
The Los Angeles Consortium of Online Travel (LACOT) is hosting, and we’ll hear a few words from our favorite local travel celebrity along with some helpful travel advice. Here’s what LACOT has to say about the event:
“Those of us who so choose can have a quick tour of the Luxe Sunset Hotel. Right off the 405 on Sunset Blvd, this boutique hotel is one of west Los Angeles’ great little surprises. Great food and talented, creative barkeeps are a draw for locals, and the rooms are beautifully appointed. You’d never suspect that the Luxe Hotel Sunset Blvd sits on seven acres, so close to the 405 as it is.
And - shhh - there may be one or two other surprises in store for this evening’s gathering of like-minded travel lovers. Don’t ask; you’ll have to come to the meet-up to find out. But, seriously…wine, hors d’oeuvres, chit-chat, and Johnny Jet? Sounds pretty great as it is.”
January 23, 2012 | 12:40 pm
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Although my personal country count is over one hundred countries (by Traveler’s Century Club), I still have so many places to go on my list! For a long time, I have wanted to go to Iceland and Ireland (and Italy—George calls is my “I” List). When Richard Bangs spoke at our travel event in October, he told me he was off to Ireland. Please see my article below about his trip, his new videos and the concept of “Craic.” I can’t wait to go to Ireland!! Where do you want to go next?
There is a mysterious and elusive concept in Ireland called “Craic.” Everyone in country knows what is it, and seeks it, and relishes it….but few outside the shores know of it….A secret within an enigma in a puzzle.
Join Richard Bangs as he unearths this underground notion, see the entire multi-media series of dispatches now; it is live on vimeo.
Richard Bangs was our keynote speaker at Meet Plan Go Los Angeles in October 2011. He has often been called the father of modern adventure travel, having spent more than 30 years as an explorer and communicator, pioneering “virtual expeditions” on the World Wide Web and leading first descents of 35 rivers around the world. He has published more than 1000 magazine articles, 19 books, a score of documentaries, several CD-ROMs, and all manner of digital media. He has lectured at the Smithsonian, the National Geographic Society, the Explorers Club and many other notable venues.
His desire for adventure and travel was inspired by his father, a career officer in the CIA, part of the first class that came from Yale who truly believed he could change the world for the better, as the OSS did before him. Richard is working to change the world with his show, Adventure with a Purpose, seen on PBS. His series of specials celebrate a destination, and tell its stories in an evocative, emotive way, one that elicits connectivity, inspiration to visit, and to become involved.
I hope his series will inspire you to live his vision:
“Risk is the flame of the evolution of consciousness. I would rather die trying something new than live a long life of mediocrity.”
Travel, as Mark Twain supposedly says, is fatal to bigotry and prejudice, but it also reignites the internal combustion engine of the soul. Richard Bangs says, “I love finding new light, turning over new stones; falling into new holes…I love getting lost.”
January 17, 2012 | 3:16 pm
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Our Latest VIDEO from Thanksgiving in Mexico! Enjoy!
Thank you to EVERYONE for reading, commenting and sharing our blog and website! We really appreciate it! We were very well read in December 2011~ over 6000 views! We hope your support continues!
A few articles that featured LISA that you might have missed:
After dropping out of medical school in her 20s, Lisa Niver Rajna of Los Angeles traveled for almost seven years on the high seas. “In my 30s, I worked on a cruise ship like Julie McCoy [on the TV series “The Love Boat”] and also worked for two seasons at Club Med. My family said I ran away and joined the circus.”
While some people worried that she might be “wasting her potential,” Niver Rajna discovered that she really enjoyed both traveling and working with the kids’ programs on the cruises. These experiences, plus her educational background, led her to become a science teacher and travel blogger in her 40s.
“I have no regrets about taking this other path,” Niver Rajna says. “Once I decided that leaving medicine was the right choice for me, everything else fell into place. When I am teaching or traveling, I know I am in the right place doing what I am meant to be doing.”
1. Know that you do it - Awareness FIRST
2. Have a plan for what you can do instead, go for a walk or call a friend when you are mad about what someone said. Chocolate is not the answer (but, it sure can feel like the answer at the time).
3. Don’t let yourself get too hungry. If I get over-hungry I make the worst food choices. If I keep an apple and nuts in my desk I will eat those at 3pm. If I don’t have a good snack I will find anything to eat - especially chocolate!
4. It is not a straight path, be gentle with yourself! Eating a small chocolate is better than a pint of ice cream.
When my doctor told me I had gained 13 pounds, we had a mini-fight in her office. No one in my family or any of my friends had been brave enough to tell me. I still can’t believe I had no idea how I looked and I could not figure out why I couldn’t get a second date. I did meet George online at my heaviest of 176 and 39 years old. I almost missed our first date because I did not write back, but luckily he wrote to me again. At our wedding, just 3 years later, I weighed 114 lbs. It was a long journey of weight loss and of eating less but it has been worth the effort!
—Lisa Niver Rajna, Happy Traveler, We Said Go Travel http://www.wesaidgotravel.com
Most adults think of science as an experiment or equation that has nothing to do with everyday life. But science is the process for figuring out how things work, explains Lisa Niver Rajna, a K-6 science teacher in Los Angeles. When you think of it that way, even a construction site can turn into a physics lesson.
Observation is the basis of science, so do what Rajna does when she takes her students out on a walk: ask your child to put on his imaginary detective hat and tell you everything he sees.
January 9, 2012 | 1:11 pm
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
The Lonely Planet describes Neiafu, the main town on the Vava’u Island group as “ramshackle.” Although I somewhat agree, Neiafu has its charms. In fact, I would describe it as quaint. Families of pigs cross the road, a large white church perches above the town, and children stop to say, “Hello.” In addition, due to the expatriate yacht scene brought about by the Port of Refuge, a pretty and protected harbor, many good restaurants have sprung up including Cafe Tropicana, The Sunset Grill, and the Aquarium Cafe, all good places to sample tasty Western food. There is even a decent Chinese option.
The “Orange Vomit,” or the nickname that locals gave the old ferry, no longer runs but the current craft, both new and old boats, are quite basic, especially if you are planning on tackling the roughly 18-hour journey from Nuku’alofa to Vava’u. For this reason, we opted to fly and arrived in only 45 minutes. We checked into the Puataukanave Hotel where the room choices are deluxe, luxury, economy, and backpacker; due to the costs of traveling in Tonga, we chose the backpacker room that costs about $30US per night for spartan rooms with shared bathroom and a slew of mosquitos awaiting guest arrival.
Everything in Tonga is quite pricey. We ran into quite a few long-term travelers who mentioned, “I’m traveling for a year and I thought that Tonga would be one of the cheaper countries that we would visit,” and “The flight here from New Zealand was quite reasonable so we figured that Tonga was a budget travel destination.” Wrong! Everything in Tonga is expensive, from internal flights to restaurants, to food purchased in shops. Accommodation is a terrible value. At times it does not even seem like the Tongans really want tourism in their country. Yes, Tonga taketh, but Tonga also giveth. When Tonga gives, tourists are quite content. Still, expect to pay roughly three times what you would in South-East Asia and even more than Samoa for lesser quality.
Lisa and I spent our first couple of days wandering and taking in the village atmosphere. The locals appeared reserved yet friendly when approached. The expats were all very friendly and quite a party atmosphere developed at Tongan Bob’s, a local bar also run by an expat. On Wednesdays you can attend the “famous” fakaleiti night; what transpires here makes absolutely no sense to me. Basically, a man who is dressed as a woman dances on the stage to a song like, “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. While this man dances, men and women in the crowd, both expats and locals, approach the dancer and place local paper currency in the fakaleiti’s bra strap, g-string, or anywhere money can be deposited. This is not my thing but the people there that night seemed to be having a good time.
The following day we left with Dolphin Pacific Diving to enjoy what I imagined to be the highlight of our trip to Vava’u and possibly even Tonga. We headed off to swim with humpback whales! Our leader for the day, Al, sat perched on the upper deck of our boat looking for whales. He said, “The first person who spots the whale gets to swim first. You spot them by looking for spouting water that will be exiting from the whale’s blowhole.” I kept close watch as we motored among a variety of islets that in total form almost a jellyfish-like shape.
The hues of the water, greens and blues, are as hard to describe as they are varied. About fifteen minutes after we left the harbor, Al dropped to the main deck area to inform us, “There are pilot whales here. We are going to take advantage of this even though we are looking for humpbacks.” We all nodded in agreement and prepared our gear that included wetsuits (the Tongan waters are cold, really!), snorkels and masks. We had to supply our own courage to swim with massive sea creatures. I asked Al, “How many pilot whales are here?” He responded, “They normally travel in groups of fifteen to twenty.” I excitedly placed on my gear and prepared to enter the water. To my dismay, the whales immediately dove toward the depths and disappeared. We removed our gear and mentally prepared ourselves for the next swim.
After the failed pilot whale swim, our luck did not improve. We glided over the choppy ocean for at least an hour, seeing nothing. I began hallucinating, thinking that every spray of water was a whale spout. Al heard over the CB radio that another boat had pinpointed the location of two whales. We quickly advanced toward the divine location but after we arrived we were informed that “yes there are two whales,” and that the rules state that “The other boat can swim with the whales for an hour before we have a shot since they spotted it first.” We were advised to eat the light lunch included in the tour, a sandwich with strange potato chips that tasted like barbequed squid. The whale watching day trip was a pricey $275US for the two of us, expensive like everything else in the island nation.
After 45 minutes, the other boat notified us that they had finished with their turn and that we could give it a go. Since our boat held only four people we were permitted to enter the water at the same time. We saw two whales over the bow and some spouting. We were told to prepare our gear and head to the stern. Our legs dangled into the ocean as the boat slowed and suddenly the boat driver yelled, “Go, go, go!!!” We swam frantically toward the whales. I heard Lisa coughing and I looked at her and asked if she was okay. She nodded. I continued to swim toward the whale but saw nothing. We returned to the boat and I readied myself for our next attempt. But there would be no more attempts. Al informed us that the choppy waters were not to our advantage and that we were heading back to the harbor. I was livid. I said, “One time? We entered the water one time and that’s it? We paid all this money just for one chance?” Al said, “Most people need to come on at least three boat trips to ensure that they swim with whales but even then, I mean, this is nature and you cannot guarantee anything.” My mood did not improve even though what he said made sense.
Later, as we approached the harbor, Al asked me, “Do you want to go out again tomorrow?” I said, “We are heading to Ofu Island tomorrow and have already scheduled everything.” Al handed me his card,“Here is my number. Call me when you are returning from Ofu and I will get you on a boat to have another opportunity.” I shook Al’s hand and thanked him for the kind offer. Then we went to town to get food to take with us to Ofu. Our first attempt with the whales was a failure. But remember: Tonga taketh, and …Tonga giveth.
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