Category Archives: North America

North America

Houston – It’s a Wrap!

 

First time filming in Houston, Texas and what an AMAZING experience. Visiting Houston is like visiting several destinations in one swoop.

Like the state where it resides, Texas, Houston is BIG. Massive actually. It’s literally the size of a small state.

But what many may not know is that it’s also very diverse.

We ate a scrumptious Viet-Cajun feast, got outfitted in a custom cowboy hat & boots, participated in a ancient Chinese calligraphy and a tea ceremony in Chinatown and I learned to dance to Zydeco music with the “Queen of Zydeco” at a cajun honky tonk all while taking in some of the quirkiest art scenes I’ve ever experienced and eating some of the most amazing internationally influenced cuisine I’ve ever had the pleasure of trying.

It was unusually cold (my lips are still chapped), but the people were so warm and hospitable I didn’t feel the chill.

Thank you Houston, for your hospitality and for your kindness and yes for your diversity and quirkiness.

Be big…be Houston…but please don’t ever change, ’cause I love ya just the way you are!

Here is a clip from my appearance  on KPRC – NBC 2’s “Houston Life” . Enjoy!

 

Happy Holidays from Red Cloud Indian School

RED CLOUD INDIAN SCHOOL & RE-MEMBER 

You may recall our “Raw Travel – Pine Ridge: Tribal Tourism” episode from Season 3 about travel to the Lakota Sioux reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

Through your generosity via buying T-shirts and/or supporting our crowdfunding efforts, I’m happy to report we raised over $3k for the Red Cloud Indian School after school arts programs.

These kids grow up in the poorest county in the U.S. and have a ton of challenges facing them unlike anywhere else in the United States. It does my heart good to see the work Red Cloud Indian School does on the reservation and the support you so generously gave when we asked for it.

If you missed it and are looking for a cause to support this holiday season, there is not better organization than Red Cloud Indian School or Re-member which were both featured on our Pine Ridge show. I hope the episode will be available digitally in the not too distant future, as we continue to try to raise funds for these guys.

You can learn more about Pine Ridge and our fundraiser HERE:

Please enjoy this bit of Holiday Cheer from our little pals at Red Cloud Indian School.

 

2016 Red Cloud Elementary Christmas Program – Highlights from Red Cloud Indian School on Vimeo.

Pine Ridge Reservation – Tribal Tourism

I first heard about the situation in Pine Ridge reservation a few years ago while watching Diane Sawyer profiling the tragic issue of teen suicide there. I pledged then and there that if ever I was able to help the people on the reservation, I would. Finally, during the 4th of July holiday weekend of 2015, I visited Pine Ridge to produce an episode of Raw Travel entitled “Pine Ridge – Tribal Tourism” and my life has never been the same.

This Recently Built Skateboard Park Gets Lots of Use
This Recently Built Skateboard Park Gets Lots of Use

Nothing that specifically extraordinary happened to me on that trip. I simply met regular folks from the reservation who were kind and hospitable to me, a total stranger. But I was very impressed by their resiliency in the face of difficult circumstances.

I was equally impressed by the large number of locals, transplants and volunteers working to help make the situation on Pine Ridge better, especially for Lakota Youth.  I can think of no better way to inspire young people to believe in themselves than to allow them to explore the innate creativity present in all human beings.

Celebrating 4th of July at the Batesland Pow-Wow
Celebrating 4th of July at the Batesland Pow-Wow

I was made aware of the lack of creative outlets by youth on the reservation when I interviewed the local band “Scatter Their Own” where Scotti & Julianna informed me that no music schools existed on the entire reservation. After interviewing the folks at Red Cloud School I thought a good way to help would be to assist their efforts to expand their after school arts program.

I hope we can work with some talented musicians, filmmakers and other artists and entrepreneurs to visit the reservation and speak to the youth on a consistent basis. I’d also like to try to create a small film school. Who knows where, if anywhere this will lead but I do know that to do nothing, is in essence choosing to endorse the status quo, and that I cannot do. Whatever we can contribute, big or small it will help.

Pine Ridge Still Here.. Still Proud TShirt
“Still Here.. Still Proud” Shirts

Even though this fundraising effort kicks off to coordinate with our Raw Travel – Pine Ridge / Tribal Tourism debut, it will be an ongoing effort and will continue as long as there is interest in helping Pine Ridge help themselves. For me this already is an ongoing cause I’ve pretty much resigned to be dedicated to until either things improve drastically or I die, whichever comes first.

With your help, they I’m confident they can and will get better. For more information on Raw Travel – Pine Ridge and to donate please go to www.crowdrise.com/rawtravel or for other ways you may choose to help then click the “How To Help” link at www.RawTravelPineRidge.com which will be updated as time goes on.

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Thank you for not standing by while good people needlessly suffer.

 

 

Giving Back: Adopt-A-Native-Elder

ADOPT-A-NATIVE-ELDER 

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While filming in Park City, Utah this summer I fortuitously came across a promotional flyer for a program called “Adopt A Native Elder” and was immediately intrigued. We made contact and interviewed founder, Linda Myer and her dedicated staff and volunteers at their warehouse in Salt Lake City where they were packing for an upcoming “Food Run”.  According to their website, the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program exists to create a Bridge of Hope between Native Americans and other cultures.  They do this by providing food, medicine, clothing, fabric and yarns to help these Elders, some of whom are in their 80s and 90s or even older. 

As they have become elderly, it has become more difficult for them to support themselves on the Land in their traditional ways. After my interview with Linda and Roger, the organization’s Navajo interpreter and ambassador, I was so taken with the program that I pledged then and there to participate in an upcoming food run.

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Months later, I was finally able to fulfill my pledge by participating in the Many Farms Food Run in a remote area of the Navajo reservation in Arizona and it was as amazing as I expected.

I flew into Phoenix on some business the day before and then drove almost 5 hours to the meeting point in Chimle, Arizona. I arrived late at night at the lovely Best Western hotel in town and woke up early to meet up with the volunteers and to get briefed at breakfast.

Linda immediately spotted me and after our greeting graciously asked if I’d brought any long pants (I was wearing 3/4 length pants). Luckily I had. It turns out the Navajo are conservative and to show proper respect, the volunteers are asked to dress conservatively with the females wearing long skirts and men wearing long pants. No sleeveless t-shirts either. The main thing is to keep oneself covered.

Linda introduced me to the group of volunteers as I nervously apologized for my inappropriate dress (an unintentional but now long running theme throughout the show),  and everyone laughed. It was a jovial, giving and welcoming atmosphere with approximately 50 or so volunteers from all over the U.S. including Utah, California, Texas, Indiana and at least one other person from New York City.

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It was a somewhat older adult crowd with many retirees taking advantage to give back, but there were also younger folks and families with kids as well as solo travelers in attendance. The kids particularly impressed me with their selfless attitude and commitment. In my view, these kids are bound for a lifetime of giving, empathy and betterment. I spent a lot of time with them and found their maturity and character at such a young age simply inspiring.   

We left in convoy from the hotel and arrived at the gathering point on the reservation around mid morning before any elders would arrive, some making a several hour journey in from remote corners of the reservations and many arriving in walkers or wheelchairs, many of which had been donated. It was obvious that many rarely if ever are able to leave home but the ANE Foodruns are special occasion for these folks.

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Not only does the event allow them to stock up on food and other necessities to get them through the winter, they view these ANE occasions as social where they are able to fellowship and see old friends be they fellow tribes people or volunteers from ANE, many of whom have been coming for years and have developed long held bonds and relationships with the Natives.

Witnessing deep friendships that transcended generational, ethnic and cultural gaps was perhaps the most heartwarming part of the entire Food Run process

The elders were as sweet as could be and they and their caretakers (if they had them) of sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, etc., were grateful and appreciative. Many of the elders did not speak English but as always, smile and a warm handshake or hug bridged any language or cultural barrier. Some of the Natives also brought gifts for exchange (rugs, yarn, etc.) giving the event a festive rather than charitable feel. 

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The ANE foodruns have been going on for over 30 years and by now, it’s run like a well oiled machine. Every possible scenario was covered and it was obvious this organization is a “waste not, want not” kind of place. The support that ANE receives goes directly to the native elders with very little administrative overhead that you would find in a larger organization.

They know by now the things that the elders most need. Items that might seem humdrum to you and I such as work gloves, knit hats, hand lotion, instant coffee, peanut butter, yarn, etc. Every elder is taken care of and every effort was made to create an event that was more of a celebration of a culture among good friends rather than a charity give away.  There were skits, entertainment, games and giveaways along with a wonderful buffet style lunch that was a mixture of Native and non Native food. 

Indeed, it was hard for me to keep a dry eye during the parts of the day. The love and good will flowing from Native to Non Native and back was palpable. When the young Native children showed up for their toys, I thought I would lose it.  Simple pleasures from kids who don’t know a thing about a computer or video game but who were absolutely thrilled with a new plastic toy car or action figure that most kids in our country today would simply sneer at. 

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The Elders.. the kids.. the volunteers… the love… the warmth.. in the peaceful (if hot and dusty) setting of the Arizona desert, it was surreal as well as a mind and life altering.

I hope I’m able to actually “adopt” a native elder or return on a Food Run soon and while it remains to be seen, it’s a memory I’ll treasure and keep for life.

I encourage you to find out about the ANE and see if it’s for you and if you are so moved, participate on a Food Run or Adopt-A-Native-Elder yourself. Please visit their website HERE and look for their segment in 2016 on Raw Travel.

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Live TV Shooting Tragedy Hits Home.

The “Live TV Shooting” tragedy in Roanoke, VA has hit home. WDBJ’s My Network channel is our new affiliate for Season 3 beginning October 3rd.

Being Interviewed live in Casper, Wyoming

I very easily could have been on their morning show to chat up Raw Travel, as I’ve done in so many cities on so many morning shows. Ironically they were filming a segment on local tourism.

I don’t wish to add to the cacophony of opinion of “what is wrong” with our country except to say this.. If you think travel to other countries is dangerous.. consider this..

I lived in Colombia in 2011 and was struck by the # of Colombians, who’d commented to me how they perceived the U.S. a dangerous, violent nation. They would tick off the growing litany of high profile and mass shootings as examples of why they feared travel to the U.S. Many said stated they preferred go elsewhere or stay home… in Colombia.. where things are safer.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/27/opinion/when-the-tragedy-youre-covering-is-your-own.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

A Surprising Adventure in the Western U.S.

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Garden of the Gods – Colorado Springs, Colorado

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.

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Taos, New Mexico

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 Sanctuary in 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.

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Santa Fe, New Mexico

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.

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I ate a lot of Buffalo!

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.

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Kissing my 1st Trout for Good Luck (Then Threw Him/Her Back to Fight Another Day)

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.

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Paragliding High Above Salt Lake’s “Widow Maker” Mountain

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.

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Moab, Utah

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.

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Someone (not me) kayaking smack in the middle of town – Boulder, Colorado

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.

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Badlands, South Dakota

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-Member and 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.

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the new skate board park in Pine Ridge, South Dakota

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.

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Pow Wow at the Wind River Reservation – Lander, Wyoming

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.

After visiting Pine Ridge I am now forever touched and moved by my experience there and with other Native American interactions in South Dakota (the Alliance of Tribal Tourism Advocates), Wyoming (the Shoshone Wind River Reservation Pow Wow), Utah (the Adopt a Native Elder organization), New Mexico (Indian Pueblo Cultural Center) and more.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“RAW TRAVEL” PREPS THIRD SEASON PRODUCTION WITH WESTERN U.S. ROAD TRIP

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

AIM Tell-A-Vision Group / Rawtravel@aimtvgroup.com

www.RawTravel.tv

 “RAW TRAVEL” PREPS THIRD SEASON PRODUCTION WITH WESTERN U.S. ROAD TRIP

–  New Episodes to Showcase New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming & the Dakotas-

 NEW YORK, NY: May 27th, 2015 – AIM Tell-A-Vision® Group (AIM TV) announced today that Raw Travel®, the nation’s most watched authentic travel series, is a “firm go” for Season 3 and is kicking its production off in June with the “Great North American Road Trip – Western Frontier”.

The indie produced, adventure travel series is currently in its 2nd season. It has experienced +46% year-to-year audience growth and surpassed viewership of much bigger budgeted, cable network prime time travel shows to become the nation’s most watched authentic travel show on commercial TV.

For Season 3, the adventure travel series promises its most diverse season yet with far flung destinations on the menu such as Western Africa, French Polynesia, Northern Europe, Southeast Asia, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America. Raw Travel will first kick off its 3rd Season production in June with a unique look at the great U.S. western frontier as the crew embarks on a month long road trip through New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and the Dakotas.

In its trademark style, the show plans to showcase adventure travel to these destinations in a way never before seen on U.S. television. The show will dig deep into indigenous roots found in the western United States while seeking out underground sub cultures and socially conscious living and travel angles.

“Season 2 episodes in Eastern Europe & Southeast Asia were wild and wooly and helped push Raw Travel to become the most watched travel series on U.S. television, but our U.S. destinations of Nashville, New York City and New Orleans were even more popular,” states Host & Executive Producer Robert Rose. “We’ll begin in New Mexico and then, in a truly bold move, we’ll explore other U.S. destinations that don’t actually begin with the letter ‘N’ as we road trip for a month through some of the U.S.’s most storied locations and beautiful landscapes,” Rose continues.

The show also hopes to continue to discover and showcase emerging, independent musicians while highlighting unique volun-tourism opportunities featured in its weekly “Give Back” segment.

# # #

ABOUT RAW TRAVEL

Raw Travel is an adventure travel & lifestyle series showcasing the rapidly growing wave of socially and environmentally aware independent travel. The series weaves together themes of eco-tourism, volun-tourism (giving back) with underground music and authentic culture in a way unique to television.

Raw Travel can currently be seen in over 116 U.S. cities representing over 85% of the United States and in a variety of international territories such as Asia, Belgium, Italy, Romania, Russia and Africa. Viewers may visit www.RawTravel.tv/wheretowatch for a listing of U.S. affiliates and time slots. More information at http://www.RawTravel.tv  Facebook.com/RawTraveltv and @rawtraveltv for twitter.

ABOUT AIM TELL-A-VISION GROUP

AIM TV is an independent content, production and distribution company founded by media executive and entrepreneur Robert G. Rose. AIM TV aspires to produce and distribute positive, compelling content that reflects its mission of presenting Media That Matters. Visit www.AIMTVGroup.com and www.RawTravel.tv for more information.

Raw Travel Nashville

When I visited my hometown of Nashville and Pulaski, Tennessee to shoot for Raw Travel  I had two extra goals in mind.

1) Show the diversity of Nashville, both musically and culturally.

2) Dispel stereotypes about my hometown of Pulaski, Tennessee (just google it if you don’t know what I’m speaking of)

If you’ve seen the episode, then I suppose you can be the judge of whether we succeeded in our aims.

But if you’d like to see some of the musical diversity featured on the show, we’ll share with you a couple of musical artists who were kind enough to perform for us.

First up is Jonah Kraut, a singer/songwriter from Chicago. At first glance, Jonah fits the profile of the prototypical musician transplant so abundant in Nashville these days in that he moved here to be surrounded by music and the creative energy that finds its way to Nashville.

However, there is one notable exception. Jonah’s not looking to be the next George Straight or Kings of Leon or whatever. He’s a classically trained musician who was inspired by Nashville’s country, bluegrass and blues roots. Listening to Jonah’s music one could forget they are listening to a contemporary artist. The listener is taken back in time to the good old days of roots country and blues.. even mixing in some rockabilly from time to time.

I was inspired by Jonah’s music and his story and he’s truly a good guy. I loved hanging out with him and the irony of a Chicago transplant showing me around my own hometown was not lost on me. Though in my defense, I have been gone for quiet some time and while I lived in Nashville for many years, Pulaski is my true hometown and where I spend most of my time when back in Tennessee.

I hope you’ll give Jonah’s music a listen. You can find out more about Jonah at his website www.JonahKraut.com  and here is Jonah performing for our cameras his blues inspired song “Company Man”.

On the other end of the musical spectrum are the guys from the psychobilly band “Hellfire Revival”. Psychobilly is a niche form of music combining elements of punk and rockabilly and more likely to be celebrated in places like the West Coast of the U.S. or internationally in hotspots like Germany and other parts of Europe, but I’ve found small scenes almost everywhere I’ve visited and Nashville is no exception.

These guys all have day jobs and while they are from all over, they moved to Music City not to pursue any big musical dream but to simply enjoy what Nashville has to offer to young, creative types, a cool lifestyle within a somewhat affordable cost of living.

They performed for our cameras in the heart of East Nashville. East Nashville is hot right now and not unlike Brooklyn is to Manhattan, is the place where artists and creatives are making their home these days because of less expensive rent and the plethora of cool spots to hang out. If I were to move back to Nashville, I’m pretty sure East Nashville would be my spot.

Here are the guys from Hellfire Revival having a good time and doing their thing, which as you’ll see, is neither Country OR Western.

Start Spreading The Word – Raw Travel NYC is Coming!

Anyone who has lived or even traveled to the Big Apple probably knows that slow walking, camera toting tourists mixed in with fast- walking-with-urgent-purpose New Yorkers is a toxic mix.

Then why, oh why do the tourists & locals alike end up mashing together at the very same, very crowded very touristy overpriced spots…. Times Square, Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty.

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PLEASE STOP IT NOW! I’m not screaming, I just live here but I didn’t always, and I want you to not do what I did when I visited. Don’t take a taxi everywhere or think that if you leave the “safety” of mid to lower Manhattan you’ll get mugged instantly or figure the subway is just too complicated.

Raw Travel is out to change what it means to be a tourist in NYC. We’re asking for locals, yes you…. be you transplant like me or native, to show our good friends, our visitors some Northern Hospitality by showing them a REAL New York City experience.

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Where do YOU take your friends and relatives when they visit? How do you help your guests get beyond the money sucking, tourist traps this city is full of?   Is Chinatown worth visiting? Is there any authenticity there? Where in Brooklyn would be good to go? Or Queens? Or, gasp! Staten Island or da’ Bronx? Nothing is off limits guys and there is no idea too strange.

Look, we don’t want to be different just for the sake of being different but we do want to show NYC visitors a unique and different way to be a traveler, not a tourist. We want visitors to feel a little what it’s like to be a local for a few days and find out why so many people risk and sacrifice so much just to live here.

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Food, Culture, Music, Authentic Neighborhoods, Giving Back… we want to include it.

Send us your ideas and maybe you and /or your idea will be featured on Raw Travel TV. But do it soon. We begin taping next month and plan to have a rough agenda mapped out in a couple of weeks. Oh and be sure and read the legal stuff below, before you send anything.

Alright.. I feel the cobwebs starting to clear… and spring time slowly but surely is heading this way. Let’s make this the most unique & kick butt travel episode ever produced about New York City. It’s your time to share some of that pent up knowledge of secret finds, cool spots, etc. So what are you gonna do? Keep it selfishly to yourself? or help us help these poor lost souls clogging up Times Square at this very moment.

Spread the word.. and don’t Fuggedaboutit now!

LEGAL STUFF

If you are considering submitting a story, show idea, or any written or recorded works, please read below:

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Yes! You Can Find Culture in the Yucatan!

EPISODE 112 – Raw Yucatan airs this weekend 2/22 & 2/23

Cancún images of wild spring breakers or throbbing nightlife may come to mind, but a “Raw Travel” destination? You bet.

 We began by foregoing the glitzy, glamorous Hotel Zone in Cancún and staying instead at one of the locally owned hotels in downtown (El Centro) where locals live and work. I prefer this as not only do we get to interact with the people of Mexico (as opposed to simply other tourists and those that are hired to serve them and keep them happy), but it insures our travel $s are benefiting the place where it is needed most… the locals, not some big corporation in Spain or the U.S.

Good intentions aside, the Yucatan Peninsula actually hosts one of the most diverse wondrous natural habitats in the world offering much more than the typical Cancún party experience.

Folkloric Dancing in Valladolid
Folkloric Dancing in Valladolid

Our 1st day was pretty civilized and began with a day trip to the Mayan temple of Chichén Itzá, an impressive site of Mayan pyramids and ruins that is squarely on the tourist’s trail.

But before arriving we stopped in Valladolid, a lovely little Mexican town full of beautiful colonial architecture, historic churches and friendly, laid back people. It was Sunday and though oppressively hot, the town square was full of tourists and local Mexicans in from surrounding haciendas and smaller villages.

After taking in a folkloric dance show we luckily met Israel who is somewhat of a local celebrity and man about town. Israel graciously volunteered to show us around.

He promptly guided us to the neighboring village of Uayma where the impressive Santo Domingo Ex- Convent & Church overlooks the town square like a protective mother. Having traveled extensively through Latin America, I’ve seen my share of historic churches but trust me when I say seeing this one in person is special. The church was built by the Franciscans in 1646 out of stones from nearby Mayan ruins, including Chichén Itzá . It has the distinction of 5 eagles featured into the design to help “protect” it.

Santo Domingo Church
Santo Domingo Church

While there we visited one of the town’s tortilla families which work out of an incredibly hot room where raw corn is soaked, turned into dough and fired over a furnace to crank out tortilla after tortilla. Despite the mechanization, tortilla making still requires 4 or 5 people providing plenty of manual labor in incredibly hot conditions.

Mari, is the owner and she and her family live on the premises. She said they work 7 days a week, cranking out thousands of tortillas for the townspeople who, like many Mexicans, eat tortillas at pretty much every meal.

Mari working the tortilla machine
Mari working the tortilla machine

She seemed happy to be there toiling over the hot furnace but I could only handle staying in that furnace of a room for a couple minutes at a time.Mari took us back to her cooking hut around back where she demonstrated the art of hand tortilla making over an open fire. For some reason, these tortillas from the open fire were even better.  You could feel the love that Mari puts into her craft.

Afterwards, Mari graciously cooked us a meal of chicken soup and tortillas. The crew and I were extremely hungry (aren’t we always?) and ate voraciously of course. Mari tried to reject the $200 pesos (about $17 U.S.)  I pressed into her hand afterwards but I wouldn’t hear of us 3 semi-fat, healthy and in their eyes, wealthy Americans, eating for free from the meager earnings she has to make do with for her family week after week.

Moe (camera) with the kids of Uayma
Moses (camera) with the kids of Uayma

However, I want to make it clear, I don’t pity Mari and her family. In many ways I envy them. There were happy photos of her now full grown children all around and grand-kids were running all about under foot and you could see the love in the home. I had the feeling that nothing was more important to Mari than family. Perhaps when you have less, family means even more. Regardless, Mari makes a mean tortilla and an even tastier chicken soup. Thank you Mari!  

Next we rushed over to Chichen Itza. To gain entry you have to pass through overpriced restaurants, vendors and gift shops with throngs of tourists sporting fanny packs and digital cameras who roll through with the chartered tour buses by the hundreds. But that doesn’t change the fact that the ruins themselves are amazing and anyone who appreciates ancient cultures I think will find the trip worthwhile and utterly fascinating. We arrived a bit late just after closing and were granted a special “late arrival” tour of the ruins. I’m always more at peace and reflective in the presence of ancient cultures but the massive place was almost empty which gave the whole experience an even deeper, more spiritual feeling.

Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza

DAY 3-6

Next it was up early to head to the beautiful and remote El Eden Eco Reserve. You can only get to El Eden after 3 or so hours of a jeep ride through terrain so rough and difficult my stomach muscles were aching from the strain of trying to stay in my seat. I only stepped out of the jeep once during the entire journey to help clear some brush and limbs out of the road so the jeep could pass.

Home Base @ The El Eden Eco Reserve
Home Base @ The El Eden Eco Reserve

I wasn’t out of the safety and security of the jeep less than 30 seconds when I was in trouble. I snapped a small sapling and was then gravely warned by our expert guide, biologist and host Marcos, that I should wash my hands ASAP as the sap in the tree was poisonous and could leave a painful rash that could take YEARS to go away. Needless to say I was concerned as we were yet miles away from soap and water. Luckily, I had packed some Clorox Handiwipes (no, they are not a sponsor.. yet ha, ha) and they must have worked because thankfully, days later, I’m rash free.

When we finally arrived at base camp, it looked like a typical  camping site or perhaps a set from Jurassic Park with some really, really crude cabins and thatched huts scattered about the several acre property which is buried deep in the savannah and teems with wildlife like Jaguars, Crocodiles, and more.  

At The Lookout @ Sundown with Marcos
At The Lookout @ Sundown with Marcos

Solar powered electricity at the property was set to shut off at 7pm and there was no consistent cell phone signal.  At night, our sparse cabins were candlelit. Just before the lights went out, we shooed a Tarantula and a giant water bug (a variety that is so big it eats frogs for dinner!) out of my room with a broom. TIP: Don’t leave your bags open when in the middle of a Yucatan jungle or you may bring back a few unintended hitchhikers.   

We helped the team at the reserve outfit tree cameras to track and “photo capture” the elusive and dwindling endangered jaguar population in Mexico.  Marcos could not have been nicer and I think we had the biggest, best heartiest lunch of the entire trip.The view at sunset from the lookout overlooking the entire reserve was simply indescribable. If not for the humidity and throngs of mosquitoes, I’d swear I’d died already and made it to Paradise.  

Cameras set to "Photo Capture" & count Jaguars
Cameras set to “Photo Capture” & count Jaguars

However, the next day we were thrilled to get back to civilization and Playa del Carmen was like an oasis in the desert for us city slickers.

Playa del Carmen is lovely. It’s a very walkable town with plenty of luxury accommodations and spas for the pampered traveler (as well as a plethora of day trips to places like Cozumel or Isla Mujeres). Or if you prefer (and we do) a more “raw” & authentic experience, there are slightly more humble and affordable boutique hotels and hostels scattered about.

Playa del Carmen @ night
Playa del Carmen @ night

We made Playa our home base but we soon headed back to Cancún to visit the Anáhuac University  to cover their inspiring American football team, the Leones (Lions) and their equally inspiring coach Marco Martos. Marco is 100% Mexican but also a former NFL Europe and NFL USA receiver with an incredible story (he made the NFL directly from Mexico, not via college, something almost completely unheard of) and contagious energy.

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The Crew & Coach Martos @ Anáhuac University

In order to get to the full feeling of practice, we woke up at 5:30AM to get to the University by 6:30 AM to take part of the team meeting. We ended up hanging out with Coach Martos and the team until almost 1 PM that afternoon. Watching these kids practice for over 2 hours in the hot Mexican sun was exhausting. These kids are playing for scholarships, not a shot at the pros and their love for the game is as genuine and inspiring as I’ve ever witnessed. It’s not exaggeration to say that Coach Martos’ enthusiasm rubbed off on me and I felt inspired in my own life and my own challenges by witnessing the fine, dedicated young people he and the university are helping to build.  

Playing purely for the love of the game.
Playing purely for the love of the game.

 The next day we headed to the Kantun Chi Ecopark where the gang treated us to a full day of cave exploring and swimming in the cenotes (sinkholes) which are all over the Yucatan (think of the Yucatan as a big slice of Swiss Cheese) but are especially beautiful in Kantun Chi. 

I’m normally not much for dark, dank places full of bats but these caves were anything but and were absolutely incredible, with crystal clear water that you must swim in order to complete the 45 minute or so underground tour.  You’re not so much touring the caves as swimming them and it’s a little chilly but seriously not as uncomfortable as it might sound. In fact, it was one of the highlights of the trip. Thanks guys!

The underground Cenotes (Sinkholes) of Kantun Chi
The underground Cenotes (Sinkholes) of Kantun Chi

The Yucatan is pretty incredible and yes, it’s very possible to have a cultural experience beyond the obvious Cancun, Cozumel, Playa experience.  Tourists and locals are interdependent on each other creating an interesting dynamic that I still don’t quite have my head around just yet.

I’m still torn over the harsh conditions I witnessed that locals live with daily. While poverty is not unique to Mexico, in this area the dynamics of wealthy foreign tourists mixing with poor locals, I have to wonder if the locals truly consider their tourism industry a blessing that gives them a much needed living or a curse that reminds them of how little they have in comparison to their neighbors to the north. And if they like me, ponder the complicated question of “why?”.  I don’t know.

Next up… an “almost” unplanned adventure in Belize.