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Travel insights,
Stock photos for sale,
Postcard from Aarondell, Traveler Profiles.
Perspective from the Galapagos,
More Travel and Culture photos,
Email in Paradise reconsidered,
Elephant bathtime in Thailand.
Travel journal from Kathmandu,
Lhasa and the islands of the Andaman Sea.
Our own adventure travel tours to Bali, Peru, Nepal and Africa.
Reports from world nomad/travel writer Bill Strubbe, now in California
Journal entries from our young backpacker/adventure seeker Nick in New Zealand South Africa, Patagonia.
Mikal beams a sensual look on Rio, Havana, and the Aeolian islands.

Take off with Nick, a fast paced, wild-eyed, young, fun, "look at me I'm a good time playboy" international traveler. His enthusiasm is infectious.

"My philosophy in life is: More, more of Everything."
-Nick Hodgdon

Fresh out of college, our correspondent set out on an odyssey around the world--an adventure that would span Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and the Pacific Islands. That itinerary would be a learning experience for the most seasoned traveler and it was quite a rush for an all-American farm boy from Shawnee Mission, Kansas.

We join him at 30,000 ft over the Pacific. He's looking out the window reflecting on his 12 month adventure...

If you would have told me when I was six years old that I would have to endure 16 more years of math homework, 16 more years of teachers' tyranny,16 more years of school, I don't think I would have been able to bare it. But, after taking it day by day, year by year, I was finally done. No more teachers, no more books, I Nicholas Ashley, finally have no more class. Now, well, what happens now?

It is time to do what I've been longing to do since I first gazed at the globe at six. This is now the time for me to fulfill my dream. I was off to see the world. No, better yet, it was time for me not only to see the world, but for me to take everything I want from it. Carpe Diem. It was time to actually act out my life, leave to chase down my starry-eyed dreams. To see the world with no holds barred, to have the definitive 'time of my life.'

Where does one start a journey of such epoch proportions?

Report from Iceland-Land of Fire and Ice

Perhaps it's the restlessness of youth, or some inward, undying personal desire for adventure and obsession for the unknown, but whatever the reason, here I am, slowly working my way back around the world for the third time. Unfortunately, it doesn't get any warmer third time round, as I am in Iceland. Although, admittedly the pay is a lot better as I am here putting together a promotional guide to Icelandic business by interviewing all the heads of industry, essentially assembling a who's who guide to businessmen in the land of ice and plenty. I have been here for four weeks now, certainly long enough to make sweeping generalizations about the people and their cold land. A land that, if known at all, conjures up mystical thoughts of Viking swordsmen and their blood soaked sagas, full of giants, dwarfs and death, so please, allow me to dispel any rumors and misnomers you may have about this north Atlantic isle, while creating completely new ones for you.

'The Land of Fire and Ice,' or, from what I have seen, the land of drunk and fights, as these Vikings do love to partake in the drink. Despite the fact that the price of a beer hovers around six dollars, these people still manage to swill themselves to all points beyond good taste. Beer was only legalized in 1989 and these Vikings seem to be making up for lost time. Although, when it comes to taste in clothing, due to the fact that Iceland is such an isolated little island in the middle of the north Atlantic, the inhabitants overcompensate with an extreme obsession for the newest fashions. It is quite common for men to be belligerently bickering while decked out in thousand dollar three-piece suits, while the women are dressed in the newest scandalously reveling, name brand fashions before they even hit the cover of Vogue. And yes, the Scandinavian conception of the blond beauty does exist here. The general population here is beautiful with model like perfection, and they look like they would be just as nice to talk to as well, but unfortunately the vast majority of the population that I have run into is as cold as their countries namesake. I haven't found too much 'fire' in the people, (until full drunkenness sets in) but that's where the intensity of the surreal, ferociousness of the volcanic land comes in.

The landscape of Iceland truly is spectacular and severe. As the island straddles the mid-Atlantic drift, the place is a live with constant vulcan activity. Volcanoes, earthquakes, geysers, waterfalls and glaciers have all played a roll in scarring up the scenery, carving out brilliant rock formations and dramatic jutting landscapes. Due to the extreme northern latitude of the island, there are a few fun phenomenons' that take place here. One, of course, is the famous northern lights, or aurora borealis, caused by sun rays attracted to the magnetic poles, thus creating beautiful, crystalline mystical vapor light shows in the crisp, clear arctic night skies. Definitely a light show not to be missed. The second occurs due to the impeccable clarity and purity of the arctic air, causing distant things to appear in clear focus. The entire landscape takes on a two-dimensional feel, making depth perception impossible. Mountain ranges that rest over fifty miles away appear to be almost tangible. Fata Morgana is another particularly wild arctic phenomenon that creates insanely realistic mirages of solid things such as mountain ranges, islands and airily, even entire cities with well-defined features. This one particularly freaks me out, as I have personally been witness to large islands that my companions and I swear to seeing, that actually do not exist.
     I am here with my new partner, Jennifer, who happens to be from St. Jo, Missouri and an MU graduate. Her blond, blue eyed, fare skin complexion allows her to be constantly taken for a local. She has turned out to be not only a wonderful partner but a good friend and caretaker - as Lord knows I can't be held accountable for my own well being.

The daylight hours are dwindling fast, in the past four weeks the days have gone from 16 hours down to 8. This weekend also brought in the first snowfall, but Jennifer and I were able to get in some high-adventure sightseeing prior to the weather and daylight detariating. One unique sightseeing opportunity came when a particular captain of industry liked us enough to loan a Land Rover to us for the weekend in order to explore the island. We did so through the backcountry four wheel drive roads that outnumber the paved. We tackled the 'outback of Ice' in style while plunging the vehicle in under its hood into glacier-melt rivers in exploration of the moonlike terrain. The rest of the weekends here have been spent exploring the island and conquering the nightlife. We have done our job well, putting our proverbial social fingers on the pulse of this country and our time is coming to an end and we will be moving on soon. I am flying into Amsterdam to team up with fellow good times friends in celebration of the Halloween weekend before shoving off to the next exotic destination. I will be finding out where that is most likely just as I'm dropped off at the airport, but I will certainly keep you all updated on my movements, as well as, the groping mad forlorn world as I see it.

Fun Facts:
-285,000 population of Iceland
-170,000 population of Reykjavik
-Reykjavik is the northern most capital city in the world.
-The average winter temperature is higher than New Yorks.
-The language is Icelandic
-There is a government committee appointed to translate all new words from around the world into Icelandic - no outside names for anything are adopted.
-Last names of individuals are taken from their father's first name - Ex: Gunther, the son of Jon Smithson becomes, Gunther Jonsson, Helga, the daughter becomes, Helga Jonsdottir, and it goes on like this.
-Icelanders are, by law, not allowed to give their children foreign names.
-Foreigners when achieving citizenship have to adopt an Icelandic name.
-Icelanders put monster-mudder tires on everything - even mini-vans.
-Outdoor pools are part of the Reykjavik scenery, heated year around with natural thermal water.
-About 100% of all the electricity here is created through geo-thermal power.
-This is the cleanest air in the world.
-The tap water is some of the purest on earth - they literally fill 'bottled water' with the tap water and sell it.
-I met the CEO of the water bottling plant.
-Iceland has a 100% literacy rate
-Also the lowest unemployment rate possible
-Prices for alcohol are some of the highest in the world
-Reykjavik still enjoys a very active social scene with bars not closing until 6AM
-65% of all babies are born out of wedlock
-No one in Iceland looks like Bjork

Carousing in LA

I left Kansas for my first stop in LA, where I spent two sleepless days hitting all the hotspots. Kevin, my friend and cohort in fast times, and I made it our duty to fill ourselves with as much American style carousing to last me a year. I was spent physically by the time I met up with Tom and Dana to board our plain to Fiji.

First Day in Fiji

After losing an entire day due to the date line, we arrived no worse for the wear and ready for some beach time. We caught a little speedboat taxi which took us, and about ten other backpackers out to Mana Island. The three of us, along with a guy from Phoenix, rented a modest, traditional thatched roof hut. We took some time to explore our surroundings, which did not take long. It only took us an hour to walk around the entire island.

Friendly Natives

The natives there are beautiful people. These laid back, easy-going people are always quick to flash their bright ivory smiles while tossing out an enthusiastic, 'bulla' traditional Fiji welcome, meaning, 'hello.' The natives also have a unique hairstyle, which is not only the island fashion but serves a functional purpose as well. The islanders grow out their black kinky hair into large well-rounded Afros that also double a great place to stash pencils and entire flower arrangements. A grand people these Fijians. The sun sank into its majestic resting place with a backdrop of islands and the aqua blue south pacific sea.

We met up with about thirty other backpackers from around the world for a traditional feast of rice and beans, washed down with copious amounts of the local brew. The laughter and lager flowed abundantly long into the night, until it was time for a little Polynesian star gazing on the beach with one of the Scandinavian guests.

Diving the Reef

The next day began before dawn, after a few hour nap. Tom, Dana and I geared up into our dive equipment and trolled out to one of the many surrounding reefs. We plunged into the dark abyss to descend upon the coral beneath. The three of us floated among our bubbles waiting for the show. The underwater light show began with the first raise of light peering in as the sun slowly crept over the horizon. The sunbeams pierced the surface like a thousand colorful stained glass pains. The light shown into the ocean, painting a mural a thousand times more majestic than any cathedral window in the world.

Once the sun was up off the horizon, we surfaced for a rest before our second dive into the 'Market', one of the more intense dives of my life. While enjoying the colorful coral surrounding me, the dive master began to throw out fish bait to attract more sea life. What we got were sharks. About eight reef sharks began swarming around us. We all watched in awe as these majestic animals swam gracefully around us.

We managed to get a little rest on one of the many pristine beaches before heading back to the main island for drinks and dinner with some Scandinavian sweethearts. The four of us, Tom, Dana, Pete and I procured ourselves a spot on the linoleum airport terminal floor to catch some sleep before boarding our flight to New Zealand.

New Zealand

I'm sitting in a cyber café right now in Auckland, New Zealand. I arrived early this morning with Tom, Dana, my two friends from the University of Arizona, and Peter, a Swedish backpacker we met in Fiji. Tom, Dana and I have rented a small RV complete with kitchenette, bathroom and sleeping room for three. We figure this to be the best way to be mobile and explore New Zealand in the few weeks we have here. Auckland, so far, reminds me of a small San Francisco, with its downtown built up on the hills snuggled up to a large bay. The climate is similar as well.

Tom, Dana and I are parting ways with our newfound Scandinavian friend to head up to the Bay of Isles to do a little swimming with the dolphins. Then it will be off for a little volcano and hot springs exploring on the North Island for a while. Our loose itinerary takes us next to the South Island to do some skiing, and bungi jumping mixed in with a little intermingling with the locals.

Stayed tuned for further adventures on New Zealand's south island...

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