Congratulations, Gary!

Gary Ryals - UCLA Top 100 AlumnusIn the mid-90's, I was fortunate to be able to work and travel at the same time. I spent four and a half months traveling around South America with a group of guys and we had our share of adventures. I lost touch with all of them over the years, but recently ran into my closest friend from that trip, Gary Ryals (I have mentioned him in a previous post). We have since spent some time together catching up and it turns out he has gone on to become a U.S. Navy officer and earned his MBA from UCLA. Not only has he been incredibly successful in his career, but he was also named by UCLA as a Top 100 Inspirational Alumnus. Congratulations, Gary! We had quite a few good times together and hopefully have many more to come. Read More

How You Can Help Japan

Sara's first travel experience was to Japan. That trip changed her life and gave her the passion that she has for travel today. I proposed to Sara in Japan and our younger daughter's first trip other than to Taiwan was to Tokyo. I found the country to be at the top of my favorite places to have visited. The recent tragedy there is heart-wrenching for our whole family. If you are not sure of the best way to help the Japanese, a fellow blogger, Todd of Todd's Wanderings has put together a list of trustworthy support agencies based in Japan that have English websites. He was in Japan at the time of the quake and his wife is Japanese, so he knows firsthand the devastation and the relief efforts that have the greatest effect. Please go to his site, pick an organization and donate what you feel you can to help out. Read More

Gear Review: SCOTTEVEST Fleece 5.0 Jacket

Let me start by saying that I love travel gear and am always on the lookout for the next perfect thing to add to my collection. I also travel light, so most things that I buy need to either be multi-functional, or be really good at what they do. I purchased the SCOTTEVEST Fleece 5.0 Jacket and can say that it is almost the perfect travel jacket. It is a welcome addition to my gear list and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Description The Fleece 5.0 Jacket is available in any color that you want, as long as that color is black.  It has 24 pockets, zip-off sleeves, inside wiring guides for your iPod, and an internal pocket big enough to carry a magazine (or the iPad). It has a special strap inside one pocket that will hold a water bottle upright, a key chain, several pockets to hold small memory sticks/cards, a see-through pocket so you can control your iPod/iPhone without removing it, and several hidden pockets. I was walking somewhere with Sara the other day and she was a bit annoyed as I was not paying attention to what she was saying. Finally, she asked me what was on my mind. I smiled and said, "I think I just found another pocket!" Read More

Xi’an: So Much History!

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The ancient legend, passed down from generation to generation, told of the first Chinese emperor who was so afraid of the afterlife that he arranged to bring thousands of warriors to guard him when he passed on. It was not important that they had not yet died. They were buried alive with him when he died, along with gold, food, livestock, clothing and anything else he would need in the next world. This was a legend that every Chinese child was taught as historical fact in school for thousands of years. It was something they all believed as much as we Americans believe in Washington crossing the Delaware. Thousands of people buried alive just to appease one man's ego. It seems difficult to believe, but was it true? No one knew for sure, until about 35 years ago. Read More

Choices: Time vs. Money

Everything in life involves choices. We are fortunate to live in a society that allows some pretty fantastic choices, but there is still no getting around the fact that we must still make them. If your goal in life is to travel more, then you simply need to make the choice to travel more (I am making a big assumption that since you are reading this blog on the Internet, you have the basics of food, clothing and shelter pretty much covered). OK, so it sounds pretty flippant and a bit nervy to say it this way, but the reality is that if you want something, anything, badly enough, you can obtain or achieve it. Most people just don't really want it badly enough. The truth is that it is possible to travel very inexpensively, have an incredible time, and maybe even change your life, while still maintaining a job and having a family. Over the next few weeks, months, and, hopefully, years, we will explore how to do just that. With almost anything that is worth pursuing, it comes down to a choice between two things:   Read More

How We Evaluate Gear

Minimalist travel requires some thought when it comes to gear. In order to travel light, it is necessary to evaluate everything that one carries for true need and functionality. Most items should fill several roles or be compact and lightweight, or both. One of the things that I love about travel is the idea that I will carry very few things and everything that I have is something that I need. Consequently, I spend a great deal of time thinking about 'stuff'. I am the type of person that does not like to own many things, and if I do buy something, I want to use it until it wears out. What this means is that I generally do a good bit of research before I buy something, because once I buy it, I'm stuck with it. One of our themes here at FlyingCoach.org is how to travel light. Through our gear reviews, we are going to share our experiences with gear in real world trials. Most of the items that we review will be things that we have purchased for our own use, with our own money. If, however, we happen to be asked to review something by a manufacturer, or any third-party, we will fully disclose that in the review itself. We will also disclose if that party is an advertiser or contributor to the website. Our goal is to provide true unbiased reviews of items that you, the light traveler, can use and rely upon as you do your research, so that when you buy something, you, too, can use it until it wears out. We welcome any and all comments to the reviews and are anxious to hear other travelers' experiences with the same gear that we use. Read More

Dreams, Passion, Loss

For the last two nights I have had dreams about an I.T. client of mine whom I have known for over 10 years (according to my dream, Hurley from Lost was his personal chef). I found out two weeks ago that he passed away in December after a battle with stomach cancer. I have been fortunate over the years to have a lot of clients, but I can safely say that Dr. Dana Launer was pretty unique. He was a colo-rectal surgeon by trade and you would think that a lifetime of looking up people’s rectums would make someone surly, but this man had a zest for life, always a smile on his face. Dr. Launer found out in August that he had developed cancer and subsequently had his stomach removed. I did not find out about this until just before Christmas when he called me to help him set up a computer in his house downstairs because he could no longer climb his stairs. I normally do not go to a client’s house, but with Dr. Launer I have always made an exception. When I was over at his house, we talked of travel. He told me of taking a trip to Lake Tahoe with his kids when they were very young. I shared with him some stories from our latest trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway (he knows Sara very well). He looked at me and said, “I always wanted to take Elaine and travel once I retire. Now it looks like I might never get that chance.” That statement stuck with me and gave me quite a bit to think about. At first, I felt bad for him, because he never got a chance to follow his dream to travel. He had worked hard his whole life, becoming Chief of Surgery at the same hospital where our younger daughter was born. He never had time to play. Then I recalled an earlier conversation I had had with him in the elevator at his office. I was headed to my car, tired after a long day of visiting clients, and he seemed his normal, chipper self. “Why are you so happy?” I asked him. “Because I’m headed to surgery.” I was confused. Of course, he was going as the doctor, not the patient, but to me, surgery meant a long tedious process that would exhaust you even further and was not something to which I would look forward. So I asked again, “So…why so happy?” He answered, “Because this is my favorite part of my job. I am going in there to change someone’s life. I am going to take away their pain. This is why I became a doctor: to help people.” I do not feel bad that Dr. Launer never pursued his dream of travel. He pursued a lifetime of his passion. I will miss him. Good-bye, Dr. Launer. The secret to enjoying your life is simple: Find your passion. Don’t postpone it. Pursue it. Not next week. Now.   Read More

Huangshan: The Most Beautiful Mountain in China

About five hours into our six hour bus ride from Shanghai to Huangshan, the bus driver pulled off into an area that was obviously not our final destination. He turned and announced something in the local dialect, so even Sara could not understand what he said. Whatever it was, though, it pissed off two-thirds of the people on the bus, because they suddenly erupted into angry shouts. Apparently, he wanted them to get off the bus immediately. This was not their destination. The driver matched their angry words with shouts of his own. He was tough and he wasn't going to take any crap from these people. The shouting intensified and Sara whispered to me to watch out. We were in the front seats of the bus, between the driver and the masses, not a good position in a riot. Read More

How to Eat Your Way Through Chinese New Year in San Francisco

Last year I got to experience diverse culinary delights from many different Asian cultures during the traditional Chinese New Year celebration in San Francisco. We went there to celebrate with Sara's extended family. Unfortunately, her immediate family could not make it from Taiwan and China, but we did get to see almost everyone else on her mother's side...dozens. As individuals, Sara's family members have many different interests and specialties. As a whole however, they only have one: food. When everyone gets together for a meal, while traveling, or just visiting, the topic of conversation over lunch is always what's for dinner. Dinner always revolves around what tomorrow's meals will bring. I knew ahead of time that we were in for a treat on this trip, but, once again, I was blown away by the quality of food that we were able to consume in one (three-day) weekend. If you are going to San Francisco any time soon and want some good authentic Asian food, read on... Read More

Trans-Siberia Video 02 – Huangshan

The second leg of our journey took us to the most beautiful mountain of China, Huangshan, the Yellow Mountain. Read More