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Japan and Hawaii
For Christmas vacation, 1986..87, I went to Japan. It was fascinating to experience Japanese culture and commerce and to practice the Japanese language. But due to the high cost of domestic travel there and my graduate-student budget, I couldnt venture far from Tokyo. So I got to do more exploring on the stop-off I took in Hawaii. There I visited three islands. On Oahu I went board surfing and body surfing, and watched other people brave some of the worlds best surfing in the Pipeline on the north coast. Then on the Big Island I witnessed the devastation caused by the recent eruption of the Kilauea Volcano, and I got to fly over a bubbling lava pond in a small plane and saw bright orange streams of lava flowing slowly out of the crater. On Maui I drove to the Seven Sacred Pools, where I hiked through the bamboo forest to the uppermost Waimoku Falls and became trapped by the darkness of the rapidly setting sun. I was forced to spend the night at the base of the falls until daylight again showed me the path into the forest for the hike back to the road.
International Space University
I spent the summer of 1990 at the International Space University. ISU has, since that time, grown into a real university with a real campus in Strasbourg, France, but at the time it operated only as a summer program for graduate students and young professionals to study space science, space engineering, and space business and politics. In 1990 the program was held at York University in Toronto, Canada, which happens to be my home town. I drove there and back from Austin in my old, white Pontiac.
U.S. Fabber Odyssey
From May to October 1991, I drove around the United States and Canada as a combination celebration of the completion of my Ph.D. and an exploration trip to meet many of the inventors, company founders, and customers in the infant fabber industry. The first stop on the trip was Minneapolis for the Second International Conference on Desktop Manufacturing. I had been given the job by the conference organizers of editing the procedings of the conference and turning them into an industry report. So I spent a week in a lake-front cabin in Maine where I edited the papers from the conference and wrote two additional chapters of what became the Rapid Prototyping: System Selection and Implementation Guide.
European Fabber Odyssey
In July 1992 I was invited to give the keynote address to the First European Conference on Rapid Prototyping in Nottingham, England. In the week prior to the conference, I rented a car in Calais and drove through France, Germany, Switzerland and a few other countries visiting fabber vendors, researchers, and users.
Second European Fabber Trip
In May 1995 I was invited to speak at the International Conference on Rapid Product Development in Stuttgart, Germany. I followed that engagement with a week-long driving trip through Germany, France, Belgium, and a few other countries, visiting fabber researchers and software developers.
Japanese Fabber Odyssey
In May 1996, I was invited to deliver the keynote address to the Tenth Rapid Prototyping Symposium in Kyoto, Japan. This was followed by ten days of travel through central Japan to visit most of the major Japanese fabber vendors, as well as several researchers, resellers, and users. Rental cars are quite expensive in Japan so I stuck with the trains. Fortunately, one of the host companies provided a guide and translator for my trip, without whom I probably would have got lost.
Spain and Portugal
In July 1997 I organized a special session on fabbers for a major electronics conference which was held that year in Northern Portugal. To turn this into one of my usual driving adventures, I flew into Madrid, where I rented a car to be dropped off in Lisbon. In Madrid, I had my first opportunity to see a bull fight. (I will not be rushing back to see another one.) Crossing the border from Spain into Portugal was something of a challenge because what looked on the map like a bridge at Barda dAlva was actually a dead end into a boat dock on the Rio Duoro. Since I had not rented an amphibious car, I backtracked and found another spot upstream to cross. The mountains of Northern Portugal are lush and beautiful.
Malibu Creek State Park
As part of my training preparation for the Outward Bound program, I did a 14-mile hike with Andy McMullen, my basketball trainer. Much of the hike was along the famous Backbone Trail, and for part of the time we were high enough up to see the ocean.
In the summer of 1997, I finally got to fulfill a dream I had had since I was a child: I did an Outward Bound program. The one I did was a backpacking and conoeing trip on Ross Lake in Washington State and right up to the Canadian border. Unfortunately, I was disappointed because I had thought of Outward Bound as a rigorous course that was all about pushing the participants to their limits. It seems that the program has softened a lot since it was started as a quasi-military training program in World War II. So what I got was a pleasant camping trip in a place of magnificent natural beauty instead of a week of physical torture. One of the highlights of the program was when instructors Paul Butler and Bo Thrasher announced their engagement at the top of Desolation Peak on Day 6.
San Gorgonio Mountain
In November 1997, I went on a UCLA Outdoor Adventures backpacking trip to the summit of San Gorgonio Mountain, the highest peak in Southern California at 11,499 feet. I had met Stan Cindrity on a UCLA rock climbing trip the year before. When I told Stan, who in 1997 became coordinator of the Outdoor Adventures program, of my disappointment with Outward Bound, he said I should try their San Gorgonio trip. I had started a hike on San Gorgonio with some friends a few years previous, but it was washed out by a flash flood that claimed the life of another hiker. This time I got to the top, but the trip really kicked my butt as we gained 4,600 feet in 14 miles each way to the summit and back. At several points, I wasnt sure if I could make it, and I really depended on the encouragement of Stans staff to keep going. Afterwards, I told Stan that he had given me a better challenge in two days than Outward Bound had done in eight. Stan is now working in a national park somewhere, and has ambitions to run the National Park Service one day.
Sequoia National Park
Since Id been to the top of Southern California, my next adventure had to aim higher. So in August 1998 I took part in another UCLA Outdoor Adventures backpacking trip, this time to the Franklin Lakes and Franklin Pass in Sequoia National Park. We hiked about 9 miles each way in three days, with a 3,700-foot altitude gain to 11,600. The scenery was magnificent, and it was pretty incredible having snowball fights in 80-degree sunny weather.
2004 was a year of travel and adventure for me. I spent about six months traveling in Northern California, the peak of the experience being six weeks volunteering for the Department of Public Works crew of Burning Man in Northern Nevada. Burning Man is an experiment in temporary community, a forum for radical self expression, a gift economy, a ticketless amusement park, a week in adverse desert conditions, and maybe the worlds biggest rave. While previous travels were recorded in my journal, but not in pictures, the rich visual experience of Burning Man drew me to pull out my little EarthLink digital camera and take almost 300 pictures. (Clockwise from top-left, see Camera Girl, Mark and Ezra, the Man, art car, robot and friends, Poop Patrol, and painted man. Below, see panaroma of promenade.)
Journey of Political and Cultural Exploration
When I was getting vaccinated for my trip to Africa and India in 2007, a woman in the doctors office asked if I was going for business or pleasure. Neither, I said. Im going for political and cultural exploration. I have become increasingly disturbed by the way my culture exerts itself on the rest of the world and the purpose of this trip was to observe the results first-hand. I started in January by attending the World Social Forum, an annual gathering of political and social activists, held that year in Nairobi, Kenya. From here, I went on to spend two and a half months in Kenya and about three months in India and Sri Lanka. I met people, talked with them, listened to them, took a lot of pictures, and offered assistance when asked and I could. One key question on my journey was whether domination by what some have come to call the American Empire is just an advanced stage of human nature or whether there are parts of the world that, absent our influence, would (or do) live with more positive, life-affirming values and attitudes.
To find out what I learned on the Africa leg of the trip, see Disillusion on the Bright Continent. You can also see some of the people I met there (as well as a giraffe and zebra).