– Travel Producer & Host to Speak at Fall 2023 Fundraiser for Ukraine in San Francisco –
NEW YORK, NY: October 5th, 2023 – AIM Tell-A-Vision® Group (AIM TV), the producers of the internationally syndicated television series Raw Travel®, announced that Robert G. Rose, the Executive Producer and Host of the series will be a featured presenter at Warm Up Ukraine: Fall, a multimedia fundraising event to showcase Ukrainian culture through music, art, talks, and activities.
The event will occur on Saturday, October 14th, from 11 AM until 8 PM at the Midway in San Francisco. From 11 AM until 3 PM, the event willfeature talks on “Transformations for Good” from Ukrainian and American veterans, doctors, documentarians, volunteers, tech entrepreneurs, and more.
During his talk, Rose will premiere the official trailer of “My Summer in Ukraine” from the forthcoming travel documentary series to debut via Raw Travel in 2024 and photos and inspiring anecdotes from his travel to Ukraine in the summer of 2023 during an intense time of war.
“I’m honored to be able to share my life-changing experience traveling through Ukraine this summer to help raise awareness and funds for such a great cause,” said Rose. “I went to Ukraine to give something of myself, but I received so much more in return. Good people of good conscience cannot stand idly by while others suffer needlessly. I hope we can inspire more people to help a country and people who need our support and assistance, now as much, or more than ever,” Rose Continued.
Warm Up Ukraine’s mission is to raise funds for urgent causes and create a positive influence in Ukraine and among the community in the Bay Area. The funds raised from ticket sales and donations will help provide critical supplies to battlefield medics in Ukraine and bring innovative professional education to Ukrainian veterans.
In addition to TED-style talks and presentations, attendees can enjoy live performances by renowned Ukrainian and international musicians and DJs, discover and acquire authentic Ukrainian artworks, taste delicious Ukrainian-inspired food and drinks, and attend a series of classes for adults and children.
Other presenters include Evgeniy Maloletka, Pulitzer prize-winning Ukrainian journalist and photographer, who will discuss documenting war crimes, and Yuliia Matvieieva, a therapist, discussing communicating with war-scarred veterans. Also presenting are T.J. Collins and Lesya Kalynska from the documentary film “A Rising Fury,” speakers and companies working with people with physical impairments and PTSD, representatives from the End Violence Partnership, and many more.
Among the artists whose prints will be for sale include Iryna Babanina, Maryna Maliarenko, Slava Babanin, Tetiana Kopytova, and Vidro (Andrii Bunyak) and the music program will feature the Fima Chupakhin Trio and more.
Warm Up Ukraine: Fall is organized by and will benefit Leleka Foundation and New Horizons Hub, 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations. Ticket sales and donations are tax-deductible. For tickets and more information, please visit www.warmupukraine.org.
# # #
ABOUT RAW TRAVEL TV
Raw Travel is an adventure travel & lifestyle series showcasing socially and environmentally aware, independent travel. The series weaves eco-tourism and voluntourism (giving back) themes uniquely with underground music and authentic culture. Since 2013, the show has raised funds and highlighted dozens of non-profit organizations helping the unhoused, orphaned children, people with disabilities, displaced refugees, etc., as well as encouraging earth stewardship, sustainable living, and travel with a purpose.
The show is broadcast in 185 U.S. cities on major broadcast affiliates and several international territories (Asia, Africa, Europe…) each weekend. It can also be found on several major airlines.
AIM Tell-A-Vision Group produces the show and oversees its domestic and international distribution. Visit RawTravel.tv for more information.
ABOUT AIM TELL-A-VISION GROUP
AIM Tell-A-Vision (AIM TV) Group is an independent production, content, and distribution company founded by media veteran and entrepreneur Robert G. Rose. Since 2000, AIM TV has produced and distributed positive, compelling content that reflects a mission of presenting “Media That Matters.” Visit AIMTVGroup.com for more information.
ABOUT LELEKA FOUNDATION & NEW HORIZONS HUB
Leleka Foundation is a non-profit that supports Ukrainian military medics with equipment and supplies. Since 2014, Leleka has raised over $8 million and provided thousands of first aid kits, backpacks, medical evacuation vehicles, and hospital supplies. With Leleka Ukraine, we work with front-line medics and are recognized as one of the most trusted and effective organizations in this area. Funds from Warm Up Ukraine: Fall will be used for equipment and supplies for field medics. Visit https://www.leleka.care/ for more information.
New Horizons Hub is a non-profit organization that supports veterans in rebuilding their lives by providing them with the education and essential skills needed to pursue a rewarding career in the tech industry. Visit https://www.horizonshub.org/ for more information.
June 9th, 2023 – Day two of my trip, I was so tired that I spent 15 minutes thinking I was locked IN my apartment share because I was pushing a pull door. I was JUST about to call the apartment owner when I figured it out. Thank goodness. The language barrier is terrible enough without her thinking I’m just plain dense. So don’t expect this written account to be anything one would write home about.
Still, making my way from Krakow (Crack-of for the pronunciation police) to Przemyśl almost a year after our filming here was moving. Leaving Krakow by train was NOT easy. I got yelled at twice at the Krakow train station, once by the ticket agent and another by the security guard. They were angry I spoke English and didn’t know where I was going. I suppose. Touristy places always have a resentful local or two, and I get it; I’m the same way in NYC. Still, I don’t yell at people who ask me a question. I wonder if they realize how much their salary depends on travelers like me.
But Valentina came in to save the day. Valentina (Pictured with me) is 1/2 Polish and 1/2 Italian. She was traveling to visit her grandparents for the summer, something she’s done summer after summer for many years. She also spoke good English, helped translate for me, and ensured I got on the correct train because the information was sparse. We were in the same car coincidentally, so I paid her back by helping her with the luggage.
But boarding the train at Krakow was the biggest disorganized circus I have EVERY seen. And so unnecessary too! Everyone has an assigned seat; what’s with the stupid chaos? Is this a roller derby match or an MMA event?
I have a nice shin injury from a roller suitcase slamming me during the scrum. People filed onto our car from both ends, meeting in the middle in a too-narrow aisle that would not allow either to pass the other with luggage. We were at a standstill for a good five to ten minutes with no one willing to back down before I jumped in, in English, and began ordering people around. They listened to me?! and thanked me! I couldn’t believe it. Then they asked ME where to get off for THEIR stop, and I was like, “Whoa, that’s enough now… this is my first time taking a train from Krakow to Przmesyl. And maybe my last.
Also on the train were two very sweet Ukrainian refugee women (sisters or maybe a YOUNG grandmother and daughter) with a young baby in tow. Unlike the Polish ticket agent and Security Guard, they were exceedingly helpful in getting me on the right train. They said they were worried they had “lost me” when they saw me on board afterward.
So by the time the train was halfway to Przemyśl, I felt I knew 1/2 the car, though hardly anyone spoke English, and just an hour earlier, I knew NO ONE. That’s travel. That’s why I love it.
The World Central Kitchen Volunteers are gone at the Przemyśl train station. In fact, I didn’t see a single volunteer of ANY organization welcome the exhausted and on-edge refugees who were on the train from Krakow and, like me, heading back to Ukraine. There is a war still going on, you know? In fact, it’s worse than before in my observations thus far. People are STRESSED to the limit.
Elderly women and ladies with tired children dragging their massive suitcases up and down flights of stairs disheartened me. I saw two disturbing bouts of distress, one from an elderly lady upset about something with her, I assume, adult daughter… and another young girl, 8 or 9, I’d say, also scarily upset and causing a scene and evidently super stressed with her family about something. The psychological toll of this horror show has yet to be played out, but I saw a sneak preview today, and it was NOT good.
I missed Anastasia’s language skills several times today, not just on getting from Point A to Point B but also on more practical matters. I had to buy dental floss at the Pharmacy and test my charade skills. Deodorant was fun too. Thankfully…. all stocked up on toilet paper, but I’ve got the perfect charade move ready to go should I need to get some.
Walking to the San River, I met a colorful “anti-war” protestor on the bridge. Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand precisely how the war might be ended (since Russia is 100% in charge of that situation) as his English was minor and my Polish was nil. Not suitable for such a complex subject.
If Mr. Ant-War Protester has any good ideas on how to end this madness and ensure that this NEVER happens again (we know that won’t happen if Putin wins), I’m all ears because witnessing people mentally breaking down is not fun to watch; not to mention the physical toll I’m ABOUT to see first-hand.
Still reminiscing in Przemyśl (Shey-mish for the pronunciation police) has been fulfilling. I wish I could stay longer, but I hope to see it again on the return trip in a few weeks.
Tomorrow, I’m off to cross the border back to L’viv for a few days before continuing into Kyiv. Nervous and excited, of course. I have some plans. It will be very different this trip. More on that later.
Sorry for the stream of consciousness, but I don’t have time to write correctly. I have more push doors to try to pull open.
This site was put up rapidly in 2022 to respond quickly to the Russian full invasion of Ukraine. RawTravelUkraine.com is currently re-designing for a longer-term expansion, with the new site set to debut in December 2023, so please stay tuned.
The new site will feature a repository of our extensive and growing content emanating from and dedicated to Ukraine, research, resources, and various ways you can help, from monetary to volunteering, to militarily and politically.
In the meantime, here are TEN tangible ways you can help now!
1) TRAILER: View and share the “My Summer in Ukraine” trailer.
2) VIEW OTHER UKRAINE VIDEOS: Videos produced before and after the full invasion HERE:
3) SEE PHOTOS: See photos from “My Summer in Ukraine” HERE.
4) READ BLOG 2023: “My Summer in Ukraine” 2023 HERE.
5) READ BLOG 2022: Summer of 2022 travel to Ukraine HERE
7) BUY MERCH: Empathy = Strength, Let Freedom Ring shirts and merch save lives. Order your Official Raw Travel “Empathy = Strength” Shirts and Mugs HERE
Order the Empathy = Strength T-shirt that Rob wears on the show, and $10 of every order will support our efforts to help those in Ukraine directly, including our videographer, Anastasia’s father’s troop, who desperately need essential supplies.
Your “Empathy = Strength” T-shirt, Sweatshirt or Hoodie will literally save lives.
Or check our new Coffee Mugs as well. Same deal. All profits (approximately $10) will go to help our pals at Care4Ukraine.org and Keep the Kids Learning.
I’ve visited Puerto Rico before. I always stated that technically correct fact. But truth be told, I remembered little about my first and only trip so many years ago. I remember it was a long weekend. I remember I stayed in the newer part of San Juan, ventured into Old San Juan for the day, and the next day rented a car to drive to Ponce where it proceeded to rain. That’s it. That’s about all I remember. What a disservice.
Ever since Hurricane Maria I’ve been itching to get back. Something about witnessing people recovering from a devastatingly miserable experience from afar moves me to get closer. Then there was an earthquake, then Covid. After a long absence from travel (20 months), now seemed the time. So I scheduled back-to-back trips “abroad.” First to Croatia, then to Puerto Rico. In both instances, I was hardly alone.
US travelers abounded in Croatia. That was surprising to me. US travelers abounded in Puerto Rico. That did not surprise me. Puerto Rico is, after all, for better or for worse, a US territory and there is no need to test for a Covid infection before returning to the mainland. I’m not sure if that’s what drew so many US travelers to Puerto Rico during their traditional off-season (the summer), if it was just pent-up demand for travel or the fact that no passport is needed. My hunch is it is a combination of all of the above.
But I did get a distinct impression that many first-time “international” travelers were in town, at least in Old San Juan this time. They were likely taking advantage of the good deals to be had as Puerto Rico welcomed back travelers from the mainland US.
But, alas, those were just my first impressions during a second trip. This time, my second trip to Puerto Rico would be the second impression that meant the most. This time I’d be filming with a crew of locals, and I’d be staying in the heart of Old San Juan, at the beautifully recently restored “Palacio Provincial Hotel.”
I was told that this beautiful, historic, building in the heart of Old San Juan was originally built in the 1800s and that it was a former government building before being restored fairly recently.
It did not disappoint. I loved the hotel’s classic style and old-school atmosphere of Spanish style courtyards and high ceilings- while simultaneously basking in the modern, almost luxurious features like an infinity pool, hot tub, gym, uber-comfy bed, modern hot shower, super fast wifi, etc.
But my favorite thing about Palacio Provincial was location, location, location. I was within walking distance of so many sites, great bars, and restaurants. Indeed, this trip, I felt a part of Old San Juan.
Almost every morning, I’d head to the corner coffee and pastry kiosk at the park nearby and get a Cafe Negro (black coffee) con Mallorca sandwich pastry. Or I’d hit up the Restaurant El Jibarito nearby for an authentic, down-home Puerto Rican lunch.
Or visit the Poets Passage on open mic night. Here I’d be treated to traditional poetry slam from poets as far away as Minnesota; or some Brazilian Batucada fused with Puerto Rican Plena and African drumming from a surprise musical act Baturepike who simply rocked the place.
Thanks to my local pals and film crew from Discover Puerto Rico, I’d eat very well (it was Rocio from the Spoon Experience who introduced me to my new favorite sandwich, the Mallorca) while venturing outside of Old San Juan frequently.
Our visit to the nearby beach community of Loiza was memorable for a few reasons. Mainly thanks to Rafi from the famous foodie Vlog and IG account La Mafia who showed me the ropes of eating Alcapurrías and Bacalaítos (two types of cuisine I’d never even heard of before).
Rafi instinctively knew which local food kiosks were best and did the thinking for me. I’ve never interviewed anyone on the show with such an obvious knowledge and love of their local cuisine. We both did the eating, and I didn’t need to eat dinner that evening. I can’t speak for Rafi’s dinner that evening but given the performance he put in at lunch, I do recall wondering how the guy maintains any semblance of svelte appearance.
We also visited gorgeous Bahia Beach Resort to see the work the resort is doing to save Sea Turtles, Manatees, and various bird species on the island.
The “Alma De Bahia Foundation,” which translates to “the Soul of Bahia,” is their non-profit arm focusing on local sustainability through conservation initiatives and environmental education.
The Foundation works very closely with the residents and guests at Bahia to give back to our community and the natural environment. Our guide, Marcela, is an inspiring mixture of environmental warrior / marine biology nerd. She knows her stuff.
Marcela kindly offered us a bonus tour of the rescue shelter for dogs (watch the show to see how that ties into saving wildlife) and their farm, where they grow fruits and vegetables for the resort and surrounding community.
Speaking of farms, I must be getting old because I have this inexplicable desire to get back to my farm boy roots these days. Which I find ironic considering my city boy ways (yes, I know, I’m far from a “boy” anymore, but you get the point).
Anyhow, one of my favorite day trips outside of OSJ was a visit to the town of Maniti to tour Frutos Del Guacabo . There I finally milked a goat successfully, putting the “great Romanian goat milking scandal” from Season 2 in the rear view mirror. I hope!
I also learned a new term, culinary agriculture, which is a fancy way of saying that you’ll get to taste some delicious results of their cutting-edge hydroponic and natural farming methods.
Efran showed us how it’s grown. Chef Adrian showed us how it’s cooked. And , you guessed it, I showed them how it’s eaten.
Other day trips were on our agenda, like our trip out to El Hippie Waterfall in Naguabo. Unfortunately, it had rained earlier and created a situation where I wouldn’t be able to get into the raging water. But it made an alternative beauty that showcased just a taste of the tremendous power of nature (though most Puerto Ricans likely don’t need reminding).
We ended the “official” shoot with a trip to Fajardo. After I finally got my mofongo fix at a late lunch, we night-kayaked to the Nestor Martinez Luminescent Bio Bay, one of three in Puerto Rico and five in the whole world (all in the Caribbean). Because of the temperature of the water, light pollution, and overall climate change, the luminescent critters took some work to see. But my favorite thing about the whole experience was the relaxing kayak trip back (going with the current on the way back) and hearing the sounds of the water and coqui frogs singing. I could have stayed out there all night, if they’d let me.
But alas, I had to fly back the next day and get to work editing, writing scripts, backing up, and in general, getting ready for Season Nine. We were far ahead pre-covid but now are behind. But I’m so happy to be traveling again, and I’m so grateful for this opportunity to get a second opportunity to visit Puerto Rico.
Speaking of covid, I was very comfortable filming there. Most people I knew or worked with closely indicated they were vaccinated and the retail establishments, generally speaking, enforced mask policy. I was tracking the numbers, they were lower than where I live in NYC and far lower than parts of the unvaccinated USA. Puerto Ricans seem to understand tragedy, and more importantly, the resilience required to overcome tragedy. They did not seem eager to court more tragedy and seemed to understand the balance of living their lives, making a living, while doing everything possible to keep everyone, visitors and locals alike, as safe as possible. It worked for me.
Yes, I was only in Puerto Rico for five days, but thanks to so many, this second trip was far more memorable than the first. So when I say it feels like the first time, this is what I mean. Besides, if I forget any details, this time, for better or worse, we have it on video… well, most of it! And besides, it gives me a good reason to return.
KILLER CROWS IN ROME, LUCKY SHIRTS IN QUITO, When I was filming Raw Travel Season 1 in Quito, Ecuador, a raptor or some enormous avian creature excreted on me in mid-shoot. Cameras weren’t rolling, and we didn’t have the presence of mind to film a “When Travel Goes Wrong” segment at that point, sadly. I thought someone had thrown something on me, but alas, it was just a big old bird with digestion problems. In Latin America, it’s supposed to be a sign of good luck. Hmm, maybe, but the color was obscene (not the typical white), the amount voluminous, the smell was rank, and the look even worse.
I went to a public bathroom, washed off the shirt as best I could, and proceeded to film the rest of the day’s shoot shirtless, in a zipped up hoodie (Quito is high altitude, it’s chilly even during the day), until I could finally replace with a shirt bought off the street. Just in case the “luck” thing is true, I still have the original shirt that was splat upon to this day. I love that shirt and can’t find myself willing to part with it. Not sure of the replacement, probably not since it was likely something cheap and, most importantly, a bird hadn’t shat it upon.
RAW TRAVEL KICKS OFF SEASON EIGHT WITH NEW EPISODES
– Nation’s Leading Travel Show Offers Escape for Viewers –
NEW YORK, NY: October 16th, 2020– AIM Tell-A-Vision® Group (AIM TV) announced today that Raw Travel® is kicking off the first of 20 original brand-new episodes for an eighth consecutive season this weekend, October 17th & 18th. The first-run, syndicated T.V. series’ Season Eight will be exhibited in over 173 cities representing 95% of the USA.
Thanks to a busy shooting schedule pre-pandemic, Raw Travel will be rolling out an entire season of original, first-run content. After a 7th consecutive season of audience and distribution growth, the show has defied the broader-based television industry trends. Home-bound travel fans are craving elusive, safe travel experiences months after the pandemic first hit U.S. shores, and the travel TV genre is perhaps more popular than ever.
Kicking things off this weekend has Raw Travel host and producer Robert G. Rose embarking on a solo, urban exploration of the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta, Indonesia. Forthcoming episodes include visits to Lithuania, Ukraine, Turkey, Colombia, Indonesia, Jamaica, Ethiopia, the country of Georgia, andsome limited, domestic U.S. travel.
As in past seasons, the show continues with sub-themes of “Going Solo” and “Buddy Road Trips,” as well as more traditional, authentic travel. “Voluntourism” (giving back) and “Ecotourism,” as well as authentic cultural experiences, will also continue to be the show’s recurring, over-arching themes.
“While our goal is to inspire viewers to travel, I am in hopes that we can offer a bit of escape and hope until travelers can safely again visit the neighbors,” says Producer Robert G. Rose. “The travel industry has been hit especially hard by this epidemic. People are suffering. But I also believe this is an opportunity to re-set and address problems such as over-tourism and environmental sustainability issues so that the industry can come back smarter. We want to be at the forefront of that effort,” Rose added.
The show currently airs each weekend in the USA on over 200 broadcast affiliates such as WNYW Fox 5 & WWOR My9 in New York, KCBS 2 & KCAL 9 in Los Angeles, WFLD Fox 32 & WPWR 50 in Chicago, etc., with multiple airings each week in most major markets.
In addition to domestic growth, Raw Travel continues to expand its international footprint on various outlets worldwide. Raw Travel is also exhibited on several In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) offerings on airlines such as American, Delta, Air Canada, Virgin America, and more.
WATCH RAW TRAVEL SEASON-ONE ON-DEMAND & HELP FEED HUNGRY IN COLOMBIA & GUATEMALA
As tough as the economic toll of this pandemic has been on the USA, it’s been devastatingly worse in many developing countries where the poorest of the poor live day-to-day. These folks, who struggle mightily in the best of times, have been unable to work to garner their daily meals due to lockdown restrictions.
The governments of these countries do not have much if any, social net to speak of. Only private individuals, companies, or NGOs are able to help and they are now struggling as well. The United Nations has issued dire warnings of hunger of biblical proportions is something isn’t done. So what can we do?
We can each do something big or small (a little goes a long way in developing countries) to help trusted and vetted partners address their communities’ hunger.
If you remember my pal Andres Ocampo from Medellin Colombia (Los Suziox lead singer, Raw Travel theme song composer & El Sub music venue owner) from Raw Travel Episode 706 – “Going Solo: Medellin Rocks”? Andres has turned lemons into lemon aid (pun intended). His venue, El Sub is unable to host any events or concerts during the lockdown, so Andres has turned the space into a repository for donated food & toiletry items for the poorest of the poor in El Castilla and surrounding working-class and poor neighborhoods in Medellin, Colombia.
People who are unable to feed themselves let their needs be known by placing a red flag outside of their home. As you can see by the photos and videos, there are lots of donated items, but there are lots of red flags outside of homes as well.
GUATEMALA: Our old friends at the orphanage of Casa Guatemala are doing something similar in rural Guatemala, collecting funds for their neighbors who are locked in and unable to work and thus feed themselves. Casa Guatemala is a much-respected resource in their rural area of Guatemala near Belize, and they understand that their neighbors are suffering.
We didn’t want to simply call attention, we wanted to come up with a way that our affiliates, vendors, advertisers, and viewers could help, either big or small.
Between now and May 15th, 2020, donate $50 or more to either Casa Guatemala HERE:
or for El Sub’s Relief for Medellin, Colombia HERE: and we will donate the money directly to the organization.
Then simply send us an email of your donation receipt to RawTravel@aimtvgroup.com and we’ll forward you a pass for a free rental pass for Raw Travel – Season 1 good for all 19x episodes of Season One HERE
If $50 is too much to ask for this vulnerable time, we have smaller increments and rewards:
2) Between $6 and $49 donation will get you access to all three of Season One’s Colombia and Guatemala themed episodes:
Or if you prefer to rent any individual Colombia themed (#105 & #105) and/or Guatemala themed (#116) episodes between now and May 15th, the $1.99 entire rental will be donated and split between both organizations.
I know these are tough times, so we are trying to do our best to give you an avenue to help in a small or big way depending on your situation and hopefully at the same time help you remain entertained while at home.
But please if you are suffering economically yourself, do not donate. But if you are like me, feeling blessed at having a fairly secure job and outlook economically I thought this could be a good way to help.
As always, thank you all. God bless and stay safe… and sane. I know, I know… easier said than done.
* Please note this offer to view episodes is limited to viewers in the US only. Sorry Canada and others, it’s a territorial rights issue. But please do feel free to donate if you so desire and still send me an email and we’ll work out a way for you to be rewarded as well.
UPDATE MAY 17th, 2020 : Thanks to the following contributors who helped Casa Guatemala raise several thousand dollars and our pals at Justice for Andres in Colombia raise hundreds of dollars to help feed their neighbors in during the Covid 19 crisis. Special thanks to:
Stacey Pryor – Casa Guatemala
Laura-Lee Gosa.- Casa Guatemala
Rosalba Gordon – Colombia
Judy Smith – Colombia
Heather Pauli – Colombia
Brian Eubanks – Colombia
Lauren Wheat – Colombia
While our fundraiser is no longer active, if you do wish to donate, please feel free to do so at the links above and we will make sure the money gets to the right place as hunger, as you know, doesn’t take a holiday!
The life changing possibility of travel is by far my favorite thing about my favorite activity. The way travel flips things on their head or side, or more accurately I suppose, how it flips me, the traveler and changes my perspective… forever. My brain expands to proportions from which I’m sure it will never return. Travel, I firmly believe, prevents brain (and heart) shrinkage.
Until this most recent trip to the Western Frontier of the United States (New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming & South Dakota), I was convinced that in order to create that atmosphere where mind and body are stimulated to a point of dramatic change, a potent dose of culture shock was in order, the kind I most often get from entering another sovereign territory’s borders.
I figured one had to dust off (or obtain) that little blue book (for Americans), the passport, and immerse one’s self into a totally foreign environment for maximum shock value. This gets the brain waves to flow in different directions than the day to day routine conditions which often dictate our lives.
While I still believe that international travel is by far the best, quickest and most rewarding way to get quick use of that other 90% of our brain that is just sitting there waiting to be tapped – you know that part that helps us realize we’re all connected – I must now, ever so slightly, amend my thinking.
Yes, a trip within the U.S. has changed my thinking on the very subject of travel and change. Not the last bit of irony this trip would uncover.
I’ll be the first to say that I had mixed feelings about taking this particular trip within the borders of my own country, to areas some of which, I’d even briefly visited before (albeit for extremely short visits and all solely dedicated to “business”).
But almost immediately upon arrival to New Mexico, I felt a familiar and welcoming feeling creep upon me. Upon the drive to visit the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuaryin a very rural, remote and beautiful part of New Mexico the realization hit me that this particular trip was going to trigger some of those very reactions in my brain, heart and soul that I regularly receive when abroad. There were amazing things to see right here in this country, beginning with rescued wild life. Wolves are amazing creatures it turns out and you put 70 or so together, howling in unison… it’s an amazing experience.
Producing is not my first love, but it is my greatest love. I love to produce and am able to produce largely because I’ve been able to do the other things associated with business (distribution, marketing, sales, etc.) to such a degree that I can, for the most part, call my own shots, and produce how I see fit. It is a rare advantage of being an independent producer in an increasingly non independent world.
Since I call my own shots, I had chosen this area of the U.S. Western Frontier as our next big trip for a few basic reasons.
1) I felt Raw Travel needed to broaden it’s message to folks who may, for whatever reason, be unable to embark on international journeys.
2) This was an area of the U.S. I was least familiar and I was curious.
3) I was charmed by the landscapes, recent history (the 1800’s are still very much celebrated here) and not so recent history (fossils & dinosaur digs abound) and by the people who live there
4) The still potent Native American culture & influence which has intrigued me since a child.
5) Let’s face it traveling in the U.S., theoretically at least, is easier. Less prep is needed and no language barriers.
Little did I know that this experience would have so many similarities to our international experiences in developing countries (i.e. working, adequate wi-fi was virtually non existent in a surprising number of brand name hotels we stayed in, my cell signal was at zero bars more often than not in the mountainous terrain and while most people spoke English of course, there were legitimately a few who still spoke their native dialect on the Indian reservations).
In short, I was in heaven…we would get our mind blown after all. This trip could be a mind bending, life altering adventure like all the rest. A couple of quick examples… ableit in the more negative column.
Just minutes after our first test flight (and crash) of our drone in Colorado, a very large and very live field rat was discovered in the glove box of our rental car. This somewhat cuddly (but scary when driving down the interstate at 70 MPH) creature had somehow made it’s way into our vehicle unbeknownst to my companion, cameraman & co-producer on this trip, Renzo. Renzo reached in said glove box to grab the rental agreement and instead let out a scream that would have made an 11 year old girl very proud. In all fairness, I joined in perfect, shrill harmony.
Then in Lander, Wyoming we unwittingly rented an animal excrement filled hotel room and promptly checked out just after checking in.
Also in Lander, a small charming town with a relaxed vibe, I couldn’t help but notice the proliferation of guns holstered on so many hips. Evidently a shoot out at the local burger joint could happen at any time. Come to think of it, the food orders were extremely accurate.
Ironically, the last time I saw such a blatant display of “freedom” was in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
But these examples are somewhat anomalies.
The kind of mind & heart expanding experiences I’m really talking about were more tame but just as powerfully etched in my brain. The interactions with everyday Americans in the height of vacation season was a wonderful opportunity to get to know locals and travelers from all over the U.S. in a totally different light.
Whether it was the family on vacation from Dallas taking their first hot air balloon ride (mine too) with Rainbow Ryders high above the town and terrain of Albuquerque, New Mexico…
or the Philadelphia businessman on vacation with his wife and young kids at the legendary (some say haunted but I say lovely) Occidental Hotel in Buffalo, Wyoming…
or the young adventure seekers in Utah and Colorado who came to pursue adventure sports like Base Jumping (jumping off a clip in a wing suit), paragliding, rock climbing, etc. and seemed hell bent on seeing if they could get a pansy, not-so-well-known travel host to throw up…
or the Wyoming rancher who, instead of throwing us off his land, pulled over in his big pick up to tell us where we could get an even more picturesque “picture” for our cameras.
No, I couldn’t help but happily notice that Americans ARE indeed a very friendly bunch.
Sure, you can easily find a cranky, grumpy person anywhere, usually quiet easily. But you have to look extra hard in places like Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota.. to find one single impatient, non hospitable jerk.
With or without the cameras, people were cooperative, easy going and amazingly friendly and laid back.
In fact in Salt Lake City even the dreaded airport security personnel were super friendly.
Whatever is going on at the TSC in SLC I say bring on more of that to JFK please.
But I digress.
It wasn’t just the people that impressed. The landscapes of each of these incredible states simply stunned me on an almost minute by minute basis. I mean, I expected to get blown away (and even melt) in the high desert of Moab, Utah. The photos just don’t do the place justice. It’s surreal.
But I didn’t expect to try and look for ugliness in Colorado and be unable to find it. Every curve or corner turned into an “oh wow” moment it seemed.
BTW, Boulder…yep, I think I’m in love with you. It’s like the whole town is one big Whole Foods supermarket. In addition to eating healthy, organic, local, etc. Boulder folks can Kayak or Fly Fish right in the middle of town and they bike.. EVERYWHERE.
Colorado, unlike say Wyoming, has loads of people but they are ALL, it seems, outside all the time.
I discovered a side of Denver I never knew existed and despite the ruckus about legalizing marijuana, I saw very little evidence that this place is obsessed with this nearly as much as the national news media. I know it’s not as sexy, but if you ask me, Colorado’s mountain towns and mountain music are what people are high on. Marijuana, as I was to learn, is just a natural plant that’s been grown for centuries in North America and used legally for most of that time, for everything from clothing to medicine.
But the most mind blowing part of the entire journey was in South Dakota. No, not Mt. Rushmore (we didn’t even visit) but the Oglala Lakota Sioux Indian Reservation in Pine Ridge South Dakota where we ended our journey and spent, ironically enough, the July 4th Independence Day Holiday by celebrating with the 1st Americans at a local pow wow.
If you don’t know about Pine Ridge Indian Reservation I invite you to simply google it. As we followed the trail first blazed by journalist Diane Sawyer, we too found all the sad facts… poorest county in the United States…. rife with substance abuse…some of the most prevalent rates of teen (and even more tragically pre-teen) suicide rates in the U.S., etc. ,etc. Online folks will go on and on about how this area is a third world country within the U.S. borders, and they wouldn’t be exaggerating that much. It is poor and there are problems that are fairly well documented.
But what you will also find and what is much less documented (and we therefore plan to showcase), are the many positive things happening on the reservation.
Organizations like Re-Memberand Native American musicians like Sequoia Crosswhite & Scatter Their Own are working hard to turn the messaging about this place around. They are grabbing control of their shared destiny and helping others help themselves.
Other positive things like Thunder Valley sustainable housing, the Skate Board Park recently constructed and for me at least, most excitingly, the travel and tourism industry is beginning to grab hold and help offer valuable income opportunities for many.
Key to this and most importantly (and not surprisingly) to me, Pine Ridge has some of the nicest, humblest, soulful people I’ve met on this earth. They are rightly proud of their heritage, culture and spirituality that I think we as a nation need much more of.
I firmly believe that the right kind of sustainable, respectful tourism can help the folks at Pine Ridge turn over a century of tragedy and heartache into something positive economically while allowing and encouraging them to continue their proud heritage.
We conversed at length with proud descendants of famous leaders such as Red Cloud, Dull Knife and Black Elk and I found the reservation to be as fascinating as any international destinations I’ve ever visited.
I’ll admit, I have a thing, a good thing, for the indigenous peoples of the world and in particular Native American culture here in North & South America. They touch my heart and soul in a way that few other people do.
I’m very excited by what I hope you are going to see on Raw Travel – Season 3 this fall. I firmly believe it will be the Western Frontier as never or rarely experienced on television before. But I’m most excited about our time with the Native American peoples, especially at Pine Ridge and the opportunity to do some good.
I hope with our special episode profiling this wonderful place, that we can make real progress in some small way helping these proud and friendly people grasp the opportunity before them and that we can, in some minor way, help young people create a more optimistic outlook for themselves.
Yes, it’s official. I love Americans all over again…all of them… including the very first ones.
That’s a surprising gift and it’s one worth remembering.