Lost in Kyrgyzstan

Sara Izzi and Timur Tugalev, digital nomads and authors of the Travel blog The Lost Avocado.com document for the first time incredible country of Kyrgyzstan. The dreaming sceneries of the lake of Song Köl, from Orto Tokoy, a reservoir of turquoise water in the Kochkor District, up to Issik Kul, UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and Karakol, with its canyons, wild parks and colourful markets.

Unlearning by Bike — A Modern Hero’s Solo Journey from Thailand to Spain

Riding into the myst, braving the unknown. @Jeremyj0hn. Used by permission.

Riding into the myst, braving the unknown. @Jeremyj0hn. Used by permission.

Meet Nicole Heker, a 26 year old world traveler, writer, Director of Development at the Happy Kids Center in Bhaktapur, Nepal, and cycle tourist making her way from Thailand to Spain solo. 

When she graduated from Penn State University in 2015, her professor challenged her to “unlearn.” Not her well-earned education, but her limiting cultural myths and expectations. Discovering the symmetry between Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey and Carl Jung’s process of Individuation, Nicole set off to write her own myth by following her bliss. Her journey led her to teach english overseas, to backpack the 500 mile El Camino de Santiago in Spain, and eventually to becoming a core team member with the Happy Kids Center in Bhaktapur, Nepal.

Their vision is to free the children of their community through education, health care, and the abolishment of child marriages. Since 2016, the Happy Kids Center has helped increase school enrollment by 45% and reduced child labor to 8%, with many of those attending school in addition to their work. And they’re just getting started. The Center is establishing long-term stability by hiring local staff and partnering with the government to offer incentive-based scholarships, community meal days, vocational programs, and child-marriage prevention initiatives. Ultimately, they don’t want to be needed anymore. They would rather see the community empowered to create its own change and growth in the future.

As part of that goal, and to continue her quest to “unlearn,” Nicole set out on a solo bicycle journey across Asia and Europe to raise $12,000, enough to cover an entire year’s worth of expenses for the Happy Kids Center.

Nicole’s journey began in Chiang Mai, Thailand on March 8, 2018, the International Day of the Woman. As a woman of symbols and rituals, this was an empowering day for her to embark. Soon, cycling across unknown landscapes became a moving meditation in which Nicole began to unlearn myths about what it means to be a productive human living a meaningful life. She’s learning to live slowly, like the shepherds and herders, but fiercely, like the Kyrgyz horse riders and Mongolian falcon hunters. She is learning to trust and rely on the good nature of people without naïvely closing her eyes to real-world dangers. She’s re-evaluating her needs, wants, and limits. No porcelain doll defined as a sweet, delicate, sexual thing, Nicole is becoming a woman who runs with the wolves.

The sheer joy of conquering mountains. @Jeremyj0hn. Used by permission.

The sheer joy of conquering mountains. @Jeremyj0hn. Used by permission.

Embracing the unknown is a key part of the journey for Nicole. With her eyes set on Sevilla, Spain as the finish line, she’s embracing the twists and turns along the way. She fell in love with the Mongolian steppes, trusted the flow through difficult border crossings, and traversed mountain passes and cultural barriers alike. Along the way, Nicole has learned first-hand the importance of caring for the land she travels through, how the most positive impact is often the least physical impact. As a cycle-tourer, she spends most of her time in the spaces between tourist destinations, and may be the first foreigner a local has ever met. Through such experiences, she has learned to respect each place she encounters as belonging to the locals and their culture, even when she doesn’t understand their customs. Traveling with an open heart has given Nicole the opportunity to see the world with a new clarity and shown her how people all over the world really want the same things.

Beside crystal blue waters. @Jeremyj0hn. Used by permission.

Beside crystal blue waters. @Jeremyj0hn. Used by permission.

Nicole’s journey continues through the Republic of Macedonia, and her adventures can be followed and supported through her website, Unlearning By Bike. The best way to learn more about the Happy Kids Center is to visit their website at www.happykidscenter.org. There are multiple ways to get involved and support their work directly, including one-time donations to any of their campaigns, volunteering services such as media and web design, and becoming part of the Happiness Tribe through recurring monthly donations. Happiness Tribe members receive quarterly gifts and newsletters as well as invitations to special events.

Joseph Campbell describes the ideal life as being filled with one Hero’s Journey after another. Nicole Heker is certainly filling her life up. And most inspiring of all, she’s not hoarding her experiences for herself, but sharing them and the lessons she’s learning along the way with all of us.



By: Todd Holcomb

Gateway to the Ganges

Daily life in the Indian holy cities of Rishikesh, Haridwar, and Devprayag. This region lies in the foothills of the Himalayas where the Ganges River descends from the mountains. I visited not knowing what to expect, and I was both awed and saddened by the experience. The beauty of nature and the Hindu ceremonies contrasted with the poverty and suffering on the streets. The people I met had a high-spirited resilience that seemed to stem from surviving and maintaining their devotion through a challenging life.

Memories of Myanmar

Myanmar (formerly Burma) is a Southeast Asian nation of more than 100 ethnic groups, bordering India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. The videographers spent two weeks traveling in Myanmar and fell in love with the country. There are many cultural practices still alive due to the fact that the country was closed off to most of the world for some time.

Mirage of Persia

Csaba Labancz filmed this video compilation when he spent three weeks in Iran visiting most of the major cities and some unknown villages up in the Elburz mountains as well as some of the most remote places in the desert. This film is an essence of a country of ancient traditions, breathtaking landscapes, truly helpful and kind people and countless historical places.

INDIA: The Landscapes and Cultures of the Chadar Trek

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Home to the legendary, yet treacherous, Chadar Trek, the Zanskar region of Ladakh has earned the reputation of a trekker’s delight.

Stirring images of the Phugtal Monastery, and the river, both in full spate and frozen, of the lush valleys and the Zanskari people have enticed me from the time I was at school and this year, I finally managed to do the trek for myself.

The trek usually begins at Lingshed and culminates in Phugtal, but I undertook it the other way around. In fact, I was able to reduce two days travel time to two hours by chartering a helicopter to my starting off point. It all began at Padum from where we headed to Phugtal and then across the Zanskar through Pishu, Hannmur, ending finally at Lingshed.

The experience was phenomenal. From traversing the most treacherous paths and crossing deep gorges and valleys to witnessing rivers of the most unreal blue and sleeping under the milky way, the entire trek was really something else; the delight of a hot shower at the end of those ten days made it sweeter still. It wasn’t all milk and honey though. Ascending nearly 16,000 feet at some passes and walking at least 20 kilometres a day, the trek tested my wits and guts, making me question why I embarked on this adventure in the first place.

In retrospect though, I can say without a shred of doubt that it was well worth it. Not only did I witness first-hand the glories of a phenomenal terrain, but I also met some wonderful people and experienced inspirational no-waste lifestyles. More than anything else, I learned what I myself am capable of enduring both physically and mentally; that when push comes to shove the human body and mind can surprise us in more ways than one.

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HAJRA AHMAD studied photography in Ooty, a small hill town in South India. She became inspired by the darkroom and now specializes in travel and wildlife photography as well as often shooting hotels and interiors. Her photography has enabled her to travel to many new places and her work continues to evolve with each shoot.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON ROAM MAGAZINE

Alaska

Tim Kellner recorded this video to display his experience traveling in Alaska. In regard to his experience, Tim states “When I was a kid I would stare up at the giant stuffed grizzly bear in the Buffalo Science Museum and imagine seeing it alive and in the wild. That dream finally came true. I can't even begin to describe with words my experiences in Alaska so hopefully this video will capture just a small piece.” The music in the video is also by Tim.

Taiwan Face-To-Face

Taiwan, a state in East Asia, neighbors the People’s Republic of China, Japan, and the Philippines. The videographer, Tiemo Weidemann, comments on his filming saying “I travelled through Taiwan for 4 months, and with this video I'd like to show this beautiful country through my eyes. I experienced the busy lives in the big cities, got overwhelmed by the other-worldly peace of the nature, lost myself feeling at home in the countryside and found value in the numerous traditions the Taiwanese people hold in such high regard.”

Dominican Republic’s Tradition of Mask Making

For one month every year, Carnival floods the streets of the Dominican Republic with wild colors, bold costumes and incredibly intricate masks. In Santiago, which hosts one of the island’s most colorful parties, Humberto Lopez is the mask maker to go to. He started crafting at the age of 12, became a professional at 16 and will forever be proud to create masks that celebrate Dominican culture. 

Spirit of Kenya

Wow Tapes has taken us across the globe through videos demonstrating experiences have been as culturally exhilarating as this one. The filmmakers were accepted with broad smiles and open arms into a wonderful campfire evening with one of the many tribal groups in Masai Mara. Sitting under the moonlight, they heard tribal legends and felt the human-aspect of the animal-dominated savannah.

Nomads of Mongolia

Life in Western Mongolia is an adventure. Training eagles to hunt, herding yaks, and racing camels are just a few of the daily activities of the nomadic Kazakh people. Brandon Li spent a few weeks living with them and experiencing one of the most unique cultures in the world.

The Alien Beauty of Socotra Island

The remote island of Socotra looks like a landscape out of a sci-fi film. Over millions of years, the isolated island in the Arabian Sea has cultivated a unique biodiversity unlike anywhere else on Earth. Twisted dragon’s blood trees and bulbous bottle trees have made Socotra a place of legends, feared by sailors throughout history and believed by some to be the site of the original Garden of Eden.

Rio

A year ago, Yury Sharov was asked to go to Rio with a couple of musicians from London to make a music video for their song, capturing their holidays on the IPanema beach. After the video was done, Yury had a lot of material that was not used and decided to make this short video about all the sides of Rio.

Daydream in the Philippines

Visiting the Philippines has always been on the list of places Pete R. wanted to go to and since he was back in Asia during the whale shark season, he decided to take the opportunity and traveled to the Philippines for 2 weeks. His plan was to spend the first week exploring the volcano part of the Philippines and last week in the islands.