Archive for December, 2008

Living Versus Existing

December 31, 2008


I don’t generally make a habit of passing along  every online video someone sends my way.  But I think this video speaks to what is really all about.  Watch it and then ask yourself: “Am I making the most out of this one  life I’ve been given by living it to the fullest, or am I merely existing?”  

Either way, I encourage you to start off this new year by making plans to do something you’ve always wanted to do.  If you need ideas or inspiration, check out the long list of extraordinary experiences here.     


Amazing Race, Leisurely Pace

December 28, 2008

imagesMaybe it’s just me, but the idea of being herded around Europe on one of those organized group tours seems unbearably tedious. Now, however, there’s a unique alternative that sounds like it’d be a heck of a lot more fun.

In place of the typical rigidly structured group tour itinerary, Competitours will fly you and a friend off on a European adventure that’s essentially a recreational version of The Amazing Race TV show.  Your initial destination won’t be revealed until just days before you board the plane, but you can expect to visit up to a half-dozen countries over the course of your 10-14 day trip. 

Along the way you’ll be competing against 16 other two-person teams in your choice of a dozen daily “competitasks,” challenges that will have you finding your way through unfamiliar surroundings and interacting with locals in a way most tourists could scarcely imagine.  You’ll document your feats on inexpensive camcorders and upload the videos for review by an independent panel of judges.  But that’s where the similarities with the TV show end as these tasks emphasize strategy and creativity over physical strength and stamina.

While I suspect the real reward is in the extraordinary experience of the competition itself, the winning team goes home with a Grand Prize package that includes airfare and hotel points that can be used at more than 100 Starwood Hotels properties worldwide.  They’ll even throw in a nice chunk of spending cash to help you make the most out of what’s bound to be a more laid-back journey. 

Food For Fliers

December 24, 2008

dfwjIf you’re flying somwhere this holiday season (or trying to), first of all, my condolences.  I’ve been stuck in enough airports enough times to truly feel your pain.

In an effort to help you turn your lemons into lemonade, I thought I’d pass on a link to a great story from the New York Times Travel section.  It seems the writer actually managed to find a few airport eateries at major airline hubs—including Atlanta, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Miami, New York’s JFK and LaGuardia, and Los Angeles’ LAX—with food you might actually enjoy.  What a concept! 

Eaten By Wolves!

December 22, 2008


snarling_wolf_montana-1024x768Okay, I admit that was an overly sensationalist headline.  But when a wildlife park in China sends three men to live in a pen with 36 thoroughly wild wolves for 72 hours, well, it could happen, couldn’t it?

The three men were selected from more than 1,700 applicants for the job.  To earn their $725 paycheck (don’t tell the Chinese but there are lots of people who would pay them at least that much to have this extraordinary experience), they were expected to write diary entries, take photos, and shoot videos each day. 

Officials at Qinling Wildlife Park in Xi’an say the men will be safe in a tree house located 10 feet off the ground.  Of course, they also said folks from around the world would be able to observe and interact with them (at least one of them speaks English) via the internet.  But despite a fairly thorough online search, I couldn’t find any record of what happened to the three men after they walked through the gates of the wolves’ enclosure.000bcdb953f10aa8511219

Which makes me think maybe that headline wasn’t so sensationalist after all!

Tiger Tale

December 18, 2008

monktigerI’ve been fortunate to have some pretty darn cool wildlife encounters over the years, including coming literally face-to-face with a group of endangered manatees off the Florida coast and getting close enough to see—and hear—an 800-pound Alaskan grizzly eating her lunch.  But nothing tops the interspecies encounter I saw on the TV news last night.

The so-called “Tiger Temple” in  Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province has become something of an orphanage for abandoned tiger cubs, many of whom have grown up to have cubs of their own here. There are now more than 30 of the rare beasts being cared for by the Buddhist monks who offer visitors a chance to get up-close-and-personal with 500-pound adult tigers.  Needless to say, I think this place has “extraordinary experience” written all over it.

You can decide for yourself by checking out the ABC News video here.  While you’re doing that, I’ll be figuring out how to bring you a first-hand report from the scene!


WAY Too Close For Comfort

December 12, 2008


Coming face-to-face with a great white shark (from the safety of a shark cage, of course) is something that’s been on my to-do list for some time.  Now I’m having second thoughts.

Why, you ask?  Well, when I mentioned the idea to my friend Jim McDonough (an avid northern California surfer who regularly braves shark-infested waters when he’s not doing his web development/marketing thing) he turned me onto this video.  Seems these two guys got a little more out of their shark-diving trip off the coast of Mexico’s Baja peninsula than they bargained for.  Talk about close encounters! 

Does this mean I’m crossing this off my list of future extraordinary experiences?  Nah.  But I do believe I’ll make sure my life and disability insurance premiums (“whatdaya mean being bitten in half isn’t covered?”) are paid up beforehand!  

8 Great (Affordable) Gift Ideas

December 9, 2008

It’s time for’s first-annual holiday gift guide.  And, if you’re a regular follower of this space, you probably already know how I feel about giving and getting more stuff that, let’s face it, none of us really needs.  But giving someone an extraordinary experience? Ah, well, that’s a different story altogether.

So with a nod to the dark clouds that seem to be hanging over the global economy in general and many folks personal finances in particular right now, I thought I’d focus on extraordinary experiences you can give that will blow the recipient’s socks off without breaking the bank (herein defined as under $200).

In no particular order then, here are my Eight Great Extraordinary Gift Ideas:

For The Jaded: Paragliding Above The Pacific

If you give this gift to someone and they’re not completely wowed, well, I suggest you immediately check them for signs of a pulse.  And even though the idea of running off the edge of a 300-foot cliff may sound a little daunting, you can rest assured knowing that paragliding is actually one of the safest and most serene forms of flight. 

For The Athletic: Wild Cave Tour

If you’ve got someone on your list who’s in good shape and likes a challenge, six hours of climbing, crawling, and squeezing through impossibly tight cracks in the depths of Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave will give them a spelunking experience they won’t soon forget.

 For The Nature Lover: Swim With Manatees

From personal experience I can tell you there’s no more moving interspecies encounter than coming face-to-face—literally—with these gentle creatures in the crystal-clear waters off Florida’s west coast.

 For The Speed Freak: Joining The 130 MPH Club

Know someone with a lead foot? Here’s your chance to feed their need for speed by allowing them to set their own personal land speed record on the world-famous Bonneville Salt Flats.

 For The Big Kid:  Sleeping In A Treehouse

C’mon now, what kid (of any age) wouldn’t like to spend the night in a really cool treehouse?  Add the fact that most of the over-the-top “rooms” at this arboreal bed-and-breakfast have a long list of grown-up creature comforts and your gift-givee may not want to come down.

 For The History Buff:  Civil War Adventure Camp

I like historical attractions as much as the next guy. But, let’s face it, some can be a little dull.  Petersburg, Virginia’s Pamplin Historical Park changes all that with a 24-hour program that gives participants the chance to live the life of a civil war soldier right down to firing actual muzzleloaders!

 For The Sailor: Command An America’s Cup Yacht

To a sailing aficionado, being allowed to take the wheel of an 80-foot America’s Cup contender is like being handed the keys to a Ferrari.  Add the warm sunshine, cool breezes, and stunning scenery of San Diego Bay and you have a great way to spend the day. 

 For The Cash-Strapped: Panning For Gold

When it comes right down to it, who couldn’t use a little extra walking around money right now?  Which is why we love the idea of spending the day panning for gold—which is still going for around $800 an ounce—in the creeks of California’s gold country. 

 If none of these tickle your fancy, you’ll find lots more ideas on our Xperiences page.


This Job’s A Real Wiener!

December 7, 2008

wienermobile_yella“Man, I wish I had your job!”   I get that a lot.  And while I readily admit that publishing is as close to a dream gig as I’m ever likely to get, I have to say that I was briefly tempted to chuck it all when I heard the folks at Oscar Mayer are taking applications to drive the Wienermobile

The year-long assignment sounds pretty simple.  “Hotdoggers,” as the company’s goodwill ambassadors are called, get paid to drive one of six 27-foot-long four-wheeled hot dogs around to promotional events within an assigned territory.  Every few months hotdoggers get rotated to a different part of the country for a little change of scenery.

For a little more insight into what sounds like a pretty extraordinary experience, check out this feature story on You can also learn more about the what the Oscar Meyer folks are looking for in Hotdogger candidates and send in your resume here.  And fans of The Daily Show will appreciate this classic Wienermobile tale starring Jon Stewart.

In the meantime, let’s all sing a rousing chorus of the Oscar Mayer theme song: “Oh, I wish I was…”  Now just the guys!  Now just the girls!  I’m tellin’ ya, I was made for this gig.

What’s On Your List?

December 5, 2008

42970982139463If you could do anything you wanted—anything in the world—what would it be?

It’s a question I’ve asked myself periodically over the years.  One that has repeatedly led to some truly extraordinary experiences and altogether positive new directions in my life.  Like, for instance.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered, a website that lets you create your own “life list” of things you’ve always wanted to do.  If you need inspiration, the site allows you to check out  other folks’ lists, which is how I discovered SuperViva founder Susie Wyshak and I have both always wanted to attend Spain’s La Tomatina festival.  If there are “must-do” items on your list that you’d rather not share (like “Learn to yodel,” maybe?), the website allows you to keep those private.

Because I’m always on the hunt for new adventures to tell my readers about, leave me a comment about what it is that you’ve always wanted to do and you may see it featured on  In the meantime, log onto, create your own life list, and get out there and start checking those suckers off!