Melnik


After leaving the Rozhen Monastery, I headed to Melnic to grab some lunch. Eating authentic Bulgarian cuisine is definitely something you should do on your visit here. It’s always hearty, always full of veggies and definitely healthier than in most other places throughout Europe. Plus, nearly all of the fruits and vegetables that you’ll find in your meal are grown locally – or at least from nearby Greece or Macedonia.

Once finished with lunch, my producer, Mariana, and I trekked into the ruins. Among them are churches, forts, baths and residences. it’s really interesting to see the old and new mixed together – or rather I should say the “old and the old,” since the only things here that are new are the cars parked on the pedestrian choked roadways.

The construction has been kept at least with the emphasis of the medieval style, with buttressed awnings and second floors. Stonework adorns most walls and the occasional vaulted columnar vestibule overlooks the wealthier views of the village.

Check out this video that I made of my short visit there.

Rozhen Monastery


This weekend, my new producer and I went out to visit some really cool places throughout Southwestern Bulgaria. It was a trip back in time to the 1700s when our first stop brought us to the Rozhen orthodox monastery in Blagoevgrad Province. This place was packed into the history books with the Spanish Inquisition.

The Rozhen monastery is the biggest in the Southwest of Bulgaria, and is known formally as the Monastery of the Nativity if the Mother of God. This orthodox encampment is one of the few in the region, and is well preserved. You can reach it by car, as my gracious hosts have offered to me, or by footpath from the town through the sand pyramids – a highly recommended jaunt that should only take an hour or so. This is the trail that the original monastics used, so it’s something of a pilgrimage that can be made in the same footsteps as used in the time of its inception.

Everything from the art on the walls to the listless grape vines splayed along the second story buttresses, drinking up the sun. From before even stepping foot into the grounds of the compound, the centuries-old, riveted, iron-plate door swallowed all sense of recency and equipped the eyes to take in something from long ago.

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The paintings alone, finished in 1732 by local monks, are enough to lock you into a gaze of intentional curiosity. Like the paintings of the period, it’s not the masterful work that absorbs you. It’s the context of the themes themselves. They show depictions of the most important moments in the orthodoxy’s history. And they’re displayed right atop benches and walkways that people inconveniently rub away without any regard to preservation of the artwork. Perhaps this is more the fault of the keepers than the visitors for not protecting with more attention.

Nevertheless, it was a very cool experience to have been a part of. And what’s more, I was also given the rare privilege of shooting inside the monastery itself, with other opportunities to film around the grounds.

Here are a few of the images I took while I was there.

 

After walking the grounds, we also visited the grave of Yane Sandanski, the revolutionary after whom the neighboring town of Sandanski was named. Yane (or Jane) Ivanov Sandanski was an interesting chap. He is widely recognized as the revolutionary leader who lead an anti-Ottoman uprising and assisted in estoppel of the Turkish campaign of forced Islamic conversion in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

His grave site lies behind this stoic edifice, and is certainly presaged by locals to be the tomb of a hero.

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After leaving the Rozhen temple, I headed into Melnic, the least populated city in Bulgaria. More about that next time…

Finally Back Out In the World!


Oh, how I have missed you all these past two years. And also missed journalism. And traveling. And making neat, little travel shorts. I think the last time I actually sat down and wrote a blog was before I went back to the states in 2014 to start my latest of two graduate degrees – a terminal master’s in Intermedia, at the University of Maine.

It’s been a whirlwind adventure with plenty of ups and downs and lessons big and small. I am proud to announce that I have completed all of my coursework and have actually been offered a full time professorship at UMO’s sister campus, the American University in Bulgaria, which they helped open in 1991 (and are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year). The ties that I have built at the University have grown so strong that I’m even planning to complete my PhD studies through UMaine while I’m here!

To put it lightly, I couldn’t be happier. I am living in Bulgaria and enjoying a splendid little corner of Eastern Europe. I have plans to be filming in Serbia and Macedonia soon, having already traveled throughout Bulgaria and Greece for some great photo opportunities so far. So this note is to let you all know that I am back out in the world, boots on the ground, camera in hand and creating more content for you to read, hear, watch and enjoy of my humbling journeys around the globe.

Here’s a short video of the trip to Thessaloniki this past weekend, with the promise of more to come.

Headed Back Home


That’s right, you heard it. I’m on my way back stateside. In just a few hours I’ll do a quick stop in Qatar and make my way to the U.S. from there. Why would I do such a thing (is what you should be asking) when I am out here having the time of my life, publishing books, taking amazing photos, interviewing awesome guests for my podcasts and making epic movies on countries the world over?

I’m glad you asked. I’ve made a video to answer that very question.

Transcript:

Hi Travel Geekers, This will be my last update from Southeast ASia for the foreseeable future. I know that many of you have become accustomed to getting my updates from this region, but I’d like to reflect on some of my past successes as well as to talk about the upcoming changes that will be taking place on the Travel Geek network.

In the past five years I’ve grown from a simple travel enthusiast, to something of an entrepaneur in culture and international concerns with media coverage spanning more than three dozen countries.

My growing library of books from this and other regions of the world focus on anthropology, geology and even the traditions of various different cultures of the world.

My blog, which started out as a journal to chronicle my bicycle trip across the states with a handful of readers, has grown to a frequented location for travelers seeking experiential advice and which is constantly attracting marketing and advertising from all over the world.

Produced more than 120,000 images, 85,000 of which are fully edited and released on a rotating gallery of photography from 40 countries.

Started a podcast show in which I’ve talked to radio hosts like Mark Vogler in San Francisco, Web hosts like Chris Christensen, of Trip Advisor, Rights advocates like Adam Kokesh, the host of the History Channel’s Hidden Cities, Anthony Morse, and a ton of other very influential people around the world.

My videos have been aired on network television in the U.S., like KVMD Los Angeles and others; my footage has been seen on the BBC in the United Kingdom and used in everything from hotel chains and government websites to charitable organizations and tourism bureaus. And I have even entered into an agreement to have my current six films as well as my upcoming seven other films represented by a worldwide distribution company that will begin work on putting them on networks all over the globe like Canal+, Eurosport, Sony Entertainment Network, MTV, Fuel TV , ESPN and others.

In addition to that, my films have also been listed on IMDB, a place of esteemed recognition and a highly sought-after listing for any filmmaker in any market. Four of my current six films have been listed, and they’ve already approached me about listing the remaining films as well.

On top of all this, I’ve launched my latest and greatest venture so far, the Travel Geek Magazine which includes all of the above, and brings it all together in what has become a very popular travel and research resource for people the world over. I have actually met people on the road who have said that they have heard of and visited my website. It’s amazing to hear those kinds of comments about my work.

In fact, the last decade has been an amazing and wild ride altogether. Each year of the last five years has been better than the one before. But because of what’s around the corner, it’s actually just beginning.

And that’s actually why I’m making this update. In the spring of this year, 2014, I was told by a very prestigious university in the U.S. that I was nominated for a full scholarship to attend classes free of charge and pursue a dual program MFA/PhD. I did not solicit this nomination, it was offered to me outright by the university. But what’s even better, I was also offered a fellowship with this university in which I will be teaching visual media — things like photography, videography, documentary filmmaking and journalistic integrity and media ethics, are all on the table throughout the time that I’m there.

What’s more, I’ll also hope to be taking my students all over the world to film and photograph and document their media in the places where culture meets creativity and share the insights that I have learned in the last decade of being a digital nomad.

Okay, all that is amazing, and I’m hugely humbled by all of that. But probably the most significant thing for me is that during the MFA portion of my degree, I will be using the last ten years of media creation and putting them to work in my magazine. I am going to try and make a magazine that is completely unique, something that’s never been seen before, something that combines global interests and experiential travel insights and a personal perspective that bonds it all together.

Driving all of this content will be an entirely new way of consuming online content. It’ll be more than just a magazine. It will combine all my books, photos, films, podcasts, journals and blogs, and drive them in a vehicle made up of a host of new apps, interactive platforms, vivid visuals and prepped for technologies that don’t even exist yet. It’ll be a blogazine for the next generation of tech-hungry consumers. And I can’t wait to get started on it.

So, what does all this mean for the Travel Geek Magazine, the Travel Geek Blog, the Travel Geek Podcasts, the Travel Geek Documentaries, and the Travel Geek Channel? I will be scaling back my releases of videos and blogs, as expected during this busy time. But remember: I’ve just finished collecting footage for seven brand new films from Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Brunei and North Borneo. So while my studies continue, and I find myself in a collective of media enthusiasts, I’ll also be editing on the world’s most advanced software, using studio quality components and in an environment where I’ll be sure to have the best advice on how to really make an impact with it when it’s all released.

So… Stick around. If the last few years haven’t kept you on your toes, I hope that this next step will be a very impactful one. I hope that it will be something that makes the world a little smaller, a little more accessible, and a little more real to those of us hoping to learn more about our amazing neighbors.

Nurture the Now-Decisions


Having traveled long enough to write a library of books on what not to do on the road, I have found it useful, when thinking of the future, to concentrate solely on the decisions I’m currently facing.

Tough Decisions Ahead Road Sign

When finding ourselves at the crossroads of any life decision, we generally immediately think about how this will impact our future. And while it’s certainly not a bad practice to strive to ensure that our future is progressively better than our past, it’s actually more important that we keep things simple – gestating the current changes and challenges.

There’s a lot to be said about being present in each moment. This points to a reflective notion of leading our lives. But it also allows us to stay centered when facing important choices. After all, among all the hurried mistakes we have the potential to make, the ones we regret the most are those that we had the available options to change at the time.

So how do we get over this chaotic mentality when facing tough times? The old adage of “Keep It Simple” applies here. And in doing so, simple is relatable to how we are living at the current moment.

Think about it: the future is a something that hasn’t happened yet. And when we are contemplating planning our lives around something that hasn’t yet affected us, there’s no concrete way to balance whether or not the decision we’re making is a good one.

Does this mean that making a five-year plan or investing for retirement is not a good idea? Of course not. The aspects that will take care of us in our future are items more of us should pay attention to. But these are decisions that we make specifically for our future. And therefore their effects will be expected and, if we’ve played our cards right, assured.

However, the decisions that are in the now, should also center around the same notion of time sensitivity. Now is when we will be affected. So now should be the time to consider.

Stay in the moment, keep things simple, and even if things don’t go as planned, we can still rest easy knowing that we did the best we could with the circumstances we had at the time. And in that, we’ll never have any regrets.

Travelcast: Muay Thai in Koh Samui, Podcast #20


This short expose on Thailand’s brutal martial arts birthchild, was filmed in Koh Samui during their weekend matches and touches on not only the recent history of the sport, but also the fascinating and hugely impactful cultural additive it’s given the Buddhist nation.

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