Sunday, May 11, 2014

Travel Moms

My mom is one of the strongest people I know. And yes, I think every one of us who love our mothers tend to say that. They raise us, teach us, and are always there for us for the good times and bad. They share in our successes, weep in our sadness, and lift us up when we need it the most. 

But my mom is special. She's a travel mom, and that makes her job much more important to people like me.

Travel moms have a difficult job. When their children leave the nest there's always the expectation that they'll still be there within reach for the important moments. Holidays, birthdays, graduations, weddings; I was raised in a family where any excuse to get everyone together was exercised. My greatest memories are always made with family, and I could travel the globe for the rest of my life searching for what I already have back home.

I've missed a lot of those moments in the past few years. Three of the last four years were spent abroad. I'm missing yet another Mother's Day. That's where the life of a travel mom gets complicated. 

I'm not a mom, but I could imagine how hard it is for a mother to be there for a child from 8,000 miles away. You want to be an active part of their life no matter where they are. You selflessly want them there with you to share in life's moments all while wanting them to go light the world on fire. How do you balance that? 

For my mom, I know I've definitely put her through her fair share of worries. A good chunk of that gray hair is from me, and as much fun as I've had I'm sorry for keeping her up late at night.

So for Mother's Day this year I want to thank you, mom. I want to thank you for always being there for me and always giving me a place I can call home. I want to thank you for the countless trips to the airport and the signs you make for me when I come home. I promise I will always come home. 

I can't imagine how many times you've had to answer the question "Where's Ryan?" and explain why I do what I do. I wasn't joking when I said I created this blog for you. I hope it made it easier for you to share in the adventures I've had the fortune of partaking in. 

Most of all, I want to say that I love you and that you give travel moms a wonderful name. I'm not sure where life will take me next, but I know that it'll be a trip worth taking knowing that you're always in my corner. 

I'll see you when I get home, travel magnets in hand like always. Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sushi and Airplanes

After an eight-month travel drought I am finally getting out of the country for a little while! I'll be in Korea again, visiting friends and relaxing for a couple of months. 

The first hop to San Francisco is complete, and I'm getting some solid grub in before the 12-hour haul to Incheon.

One thing I found is that, when traveling to a general region over and over again, you adopt an airport as your main hub to the majority of your destination. That can be determined by the airline you fly of course (United has a big hub in SFO). Nevertheless, having a familiar watering hole before going abroad is comforting and always something to look forward to.

I am a sushi guy. I love it, and having something not-fried before flying gets me through those long flights. I have two places I always go to, one on each side of the Pacific.

I just so happen to be in one of them now: Tomokazu in the International Terminal at SFO.

No-frills sushi is almost impossible to find, especially in airports. Tomokazu somehow manages to give me simple, delicious sushi for under $10. Not bad for any place, and pretty awesome for a sushi joint in one of the busiest airports in North America.

Now back to grubbing...see ya in Korea!

Monday, March 24, 2014

36by24 #4 - I Wanna See!

36By24 is a series featuring photos that, over time, have developed stories of their own. You can find more under the "36By24" tag in the menu bar above.

On one of the last days of "Roots of Happiness" we were walking through town with our team, cameras in hand. It was around the end of school and in the distance we could hear the sound of dozens of children walking up the road. They were trickling in at first. A young boy would show us his backpack or his shoes, and we would ask as best we could if we could take some pictures of him. Most of these kids had never seen a camera before. Alot of them hadn't seen foreigners, either. Many were curious of who we were and what we were doing.

After each picture we took, they would rush us and take a look at their faces on camera. They would point at each other on the screen and laugh, then ask for us to take another picture. Over time more and more kids came to see what we were doing and, before we knew it, we were overrun!

As kids everywhere are, these ones in my picture were a bit impatient. Before I even took the picture, they were mid-sprint heading over to my camera to be the first one to point out their friends. It was a beautiful, unintended moment that seemed to capture all the action of that day. The chaos was sublime. I still remember the sounds of their high pitch squeals as they saw their faces in something other than a mirror. This instantly became one of my best memories from Kenya.

Monday, March 10, 2014

End Polio Now

I recently spent a weekend in Mesa, Arizona at a Rotary International conference for incoming officers and leaders of the club. During one of the sessions, I had the honor of listening to an incredible speaker with an even more incredible story. Her name is Ann Lee Hussey, and she is one of many remarkable people working to eradicate Polio worldwide.

Her story is very personal when it comes to Polio, and I would encourage you to read a more in depth look at her journey and what she is doing today at this article by Real Simple. She contracted Polio when she was very young and before Polio vaccinations were commonplace. Polio, once contracted, is incurable. It is manageable however, although it requires modern medicine and extensive rehab. You never fully recover.

Ann spoke to us about how it takes twice the energy to walk across the room for her, and how she had to have extensive surgery just to be able to walk normally. She told us she how she was lucky that she was born in the United States, as those in impoverished nations without access to proper care often face a life spent walking on their hands and knees because their legs are so crippled and mangled. The pictures she shared with us from her 25 immunization trips to some of the harshest places on Earth made it that much more real and immediate. This was no longer a disease that existed in history books and far away nations; a disease that our grandfathers and grandmothers eradicated 30 years ago. This was a disease that, even at the brink of getting extinguished, is still destroying lives.

But Ann wasn't telling her story to scare us into donating or to garner sympathy for her cause. She was telling her story to let us know that Rotary and its partners are only a few steps away from achieving eradication. They are "this close," as illustrated in Rotary's End Polio Now campaign. They have 3 endemic countries left: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. They are gaining momentum, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on board and donating $2 for every $1 raised toward this cause. And, with one more push and finishing strong, Polio can and will be eradicated within the next 5 years.

When I was listening to her speech, I never felt like I was being sold a product or a cause like you would expect from someone speaking on an issue like this. Most fights that people take up are endeavors that tend to be ongoing. Ideally, every non-profit and charity strives to be so proficient in their arena that their issue is eventually resolved and they effectively render themselves obsolete. They are playing the long game: fight the issue, but remain organized and well funded long enough to see it through.

Listening to Ann and learning about what Rotary has done was more like watching a marathon runner towards the end of the race. They officially started up this campaign in 1985, and in 29 years they've gone from 125 endemic countries to 3. The finish line is in sight, and they are a Powerbar and a swig of water away from crossing it. Those causes are rare and exciting to see and be a part of.

Her speech was a testament to what we as humans are able to accomplish when we come together as an international community and work together. The more I travel and the more I see in this world, the more I realize how critical it is for everyone (and especially my generation) to recognize that there is strength to be found in our commonalities. We tend to gravitate towards that way of thinking, but those voices speaking out for cooperation tend to be quiet and reserved.  They should be plastered on every news channel and visible in every medium not for self-promotion, but as reminders to each and every one of us that human progress prospers when we are able to recognize our obstacles and tackle them together.

Monday, March 3, 2014

36By24 #3 - Sunrise

36By24 is a series featuring photos that, over time, have developed stories of their own. You can find more under the "36By24" tag in the menu bar above.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24mm f/6.3, 1/30
Our New Zealand project was a beast to complete, and towards the end of it the cast and crew were absolutely exhausted. When we rolled into Queenstown, we had been shooting for just over 3 weeks straight...and this footage was the most critical to capture. I knew it going in when we were planning it out that Queenstown was going to be the most exciting part of our adventure, and that as filmmakers both Steven (the other filmmaker with me) and I had to be at the top of our game. It all worked it thanks to an awesome and flexible cast and our crew abroad giving us the support we needed.

Waking up to shoot the hot air balloon stuff was rough. We had to hop on a bus at four in the morning, struggling to sleep while working on everything else. The balloons are filled up before dawn so that, as you're going up, the sun peeks over the mountains and paints the sky fire orange and red.

The flight is incredible. Just like you would imagine, you float up with a grace that I didn't think was possible. This particular morning, we were blessed with perfect conditions: no wind, mild temperatures, and just enough clouds to give the sky some texture as the sun rose. At that altitude, everything is so quiet and peaceful. You can hear everything down below like it was right next to you, yet you weren't part of their world. You were above it, drifting in the space between the Earth and sky.

We spent most of the time up there looking through a camera. In futility, we tried to do the scene justice on screen. Fortunately, it was so beautiful that we didn't have to try too hard to capture something amazing. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

36By24 #2: The Bridge of No Return

36By24 is a series featuring photos that, over time, have developed stories of their own. You can find more under the "36By24" tag in the menu bar above.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 50mm f/8, 1/640
The Bridge of No Return is a stone bridge that spans the Military Demarcation Line that divides North and South Korea. It is located within the Western boundary of the Joint Security Area (JSA) and, from the South Korean side, is surrounded on three sides by North Korea.

After the Korean War conflict (the two sides still technically remain at war), there were many prisoners that were still imprisoned by both sides. In a series of prisoner exchanges, over 100,000 soldiers were brought to this bridge to return home...if they chose to return in the first place.

When the 38th Parallel was established, it effectively sliced the country in half. Families were split and still remain divided today. The conflict ravaged both sides, and at the time it was unclear which direction the Koreas would go. There was no clear distinction like there is today. Before each exchange, many prisoners were given the choice of either returning home or staying with their captors. The conditions were that, once you've crossed that bridge, you cannot return to the other side. Ever.

The bridge as it is seen today is very easy to miss. There are no signs or memorials, as it is only accessible if you are in the military and very few Korean nationals have permission to go there. All tours there are not permitted to leave the bus, as just on the other side lies North Korea. There are no visible guards or defensive positions. No special lines or barriers. Just an old, abandoned bridge spanning one of the most heavily militarized borders in the world.

Monday, February 17, 2014

36By24 #1: A Kindling Path in the Shadow of Fujisan

36By24 is a series featuring photos that, over time, have developed stories of their own. You can find more under the "36By24" tag in the menu bar above.
Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 28mm f/22, 10"
The hike up Mount Fuji, although popular and completely doable, is not for the faint of heart. This sleeping stratovolcano stands at 12,389 feet, and from the beginning of the average hiker's journey (the 5th Station) Fujisan's summit towers nearly a mile above.

Most hikers start in the middle of the night and race the sunrise to the top. With nothing but the moonlight and a torch to guide you, the shadow of Fujisan swallows all that dare to challenge it. And, after hiking nearly vertical for hours, you can see how it would be easy to let the mountain win. Just to sit down, take a nap, and wait for the rising sun.

Fortunately the only choice we had was to look up. Our eyes adjusted to the darkness very quickly...mostly because we had no flashlights with us. During our breaks, we would watch the distant hikers as they made their ascent. They were more prepared than us. Nearly everyone had headlamps, and they would bob up and down as they made their way up the switchbacks. We could hear the faint conversations of the hikers resting at the stations above us. Our path up the spine of the mountain twinkled under the dim moonlight.

Every time we stopped to take a break, my friend and I would weigh out the benefits of turning around. She was hiking in a pair of Chucks; I was hauling a tripod and gear. We were not prepared. Each time would count the stations above us, glimmering like lighthouses in the sea of black. The line of hikers leading up to the next station steadily moved into the darkness, desperate to beat the sunrise. It was enough motivation to get us to the next one. And then the next one...and the next...and eventually, there was only the summit left to conquer.

That night was long, and even now I can feel the dread of every step up that dark, foreboding beast of a mountain. In our boldness, we were lucky. Our path was illuminated before us. We just needed to summon the strength to walk it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

AOTOS Reboot and Adventure Syndicate

If you're a regular reader, you've probably noticed that I haven't posted much since last September. Job searching and a lull in travel has severely cut my adventuring, and I haven't been that motivated to force myself to write or create anything. Think writer's block...just with everything even remotely artistic.

Fortunately, I'm stubborn enough to not let something like that last too long. My sweater might be in the closet collecting dust, but both of us know that we'll be moving on to the next big adventure soon. 

We're going to reboot this blog, and as part of the reboot of Adventures of the Orange Sweater, I'm pumped to be working with a new group: Adventure Syndicate
This is a social media group that, much like Adventures of the Orange Sweater, is dedicated to sharing all those bold experiences we have in life with the people that care the most. Right now, you can find content for Adventure Syndicate on Facebook and YouTube. 

If you go to those pages, you can see that as of right now it's a very young group. There's only a month's worth of content pushed out right now. I can assure you that there's plenty more on the way in the coming months ahead.

So what's new for Orange Sweater? Not alot, actually. You'll still find all my content here on Blogger, with it getting pushed to Adventure Syndicate as a contributor. There's going to be more videos, and you'll be able to find them at the AdvSyn YouTube channel as well as my own channel. You'll still have plenty of written content to read as well. Most of it will look familiar. I'll just be posting alot more short, content-focused posts and posting them more often. You know... like a normal blog.

Every Monday at 6AM EST starting next week I'll have something new for all of you to check out, along with the normal posts whenever I go on an adventure abroad. I've been digging in my hard drives, and there are A TON of stories I've yet to share with all of you. It'll be enough to satisfy my ancy legs while I get ready for whatever comes next. Plus, I've been looking for a way to stick it to Mondays. Monday gets a bad rep. This should help out a little bit. Be sure to subscribe to the Adventure Syndicate Facebook and YouTube as well as my channel if you want to keep updated on everything we do. 

And, like always, thanks for sticking with me through the years. This blog has always been home for me. I've treated it much like a scrapbook: taking the memories I've created along the way and stashing them somewhere to be cherished later. I've read through my blog many times over these last couple of trying months, and it has brought me the greatest of joys knowing that these experiences were shared with so many people. 

See ya next Monday, and for many Mondays to come!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Demo Reel 2014!!!!

With the help of some awesome friends and former colleagues, I finally have an updated demo reel! You can check it out here:
Or, alternatively (because embedding on Blogger is rather disappointing), you can view it via this link:

It's been a while since I've done anything remotely creative, and to be honest I feel a bit rusty and out of shape. I was talking with one of my good friends about how I've neglected my writing and videography, and how I can't bring myself to create anything anymore. His advice was simple: persist.

So, taking that advice to heart, I do have some good news for everyone reading Adventures of the Orange Sweater. We have some new and old things on the burners, and I'll be writing more about what is in the works this coming Monday. Don't worry, I'm not a man with a master plan. This blog was never intended for world domination. It'll still be the same stuff you've seen over the years, just more focused and with some new faces and places.

See you Monday!