Recently in travel Category

Trying to Travel Minimally

Busy travel is an increasing way of life for me. As such, I decided to upgrade my luggage to accommodate this new reality. In part, this was brought on by my prior bags wearing out (I had one of the original REI Big Byte computer backpacks and a ultralight 2-suiter shoulder bag from Skyways).

I had the good fortune over the pass week to attend two excellent regional conferences, as well as to speak for the OWASP MSP chapter. Overall, the trip was very positive (despite my allergies triggering a cold) and it was a good reminder that you do not need to attend the "major" conferences to hear good speakers.

I've tried to be patient, I really have. I've now booked hotels 6 times with Of those times, only 2 worked out correctly. The final straw came in the last 24 hours as I tried to book my last hotel for the vacation that starts, well, today. The web site had a major fault last night, the primary customer care was completely unable to find the reservation anywhere in their system. They sent me to the "other" customer care office (other one?), which last night informed me to give them a couple hours, that system was down.

Free Topo Maps from USGS

Hey hey hiking/camping/outdoors fanatics! Guess what? You can now download topographical maps for free from the USGS. You can also order print copies from them for a few bucks, if you prefer. Cost of printing at home is your responsibility, too.

To get your topo maps, go to and click on "DOWNLOAD TOPO MAPS FREE!" on the right under "TOPO MAPS." If you're getting an error on the site, make sure to (re-)enable accepting 3rd party cookies (this is enabled by default in Firefox, but I usually disable it). I didn't have any luck in Safari, though I didn't play around with it much.

The nav site to pick your map is a mashup with Google Maps. It's pretty cool, actually, and could be very handy for those interested in some nice detailed hiking maps. :)

Hat tip to

Shawn's (Amazing) India Photos

You might recall that a year ago I had the privilege of traveling to India for work (AOL at the time). This year, Shawn got to go, and for a couple weeks at that, with stops in Bangalore, Mysore, and the New Delhi to see the Taj Mahal. You should definitely check out his collection of photos as they're quite remarkable. Worthy of publication, if you ask me.

2008 Cherry Blossom Pics Posted

Hanna and I went downtown after work on Wednesday (4/4/08) to walk around the Tidal Basin, taking in the lovely cherry blossoms. Each year I seem to take fewer pictures. Of the less than 20 that I took, I've posted an even dozen on my photos site.

Travelog: Ben & Hanna Go To England

We had the lovely opportunity last week to visit England. Since we get so little time off, Thanksgiving seemed the best opportunity to go. A large part of our motivation was to visit our friends Matt & Hollie, whom we'd met on the Contiki tour this past August. In addition to visiting friends, we also did some sightseeing and celebrated Thanksgiving and my 32nd birthday. Trip pics are available here.

The trip started Wednesday evening (21st) with an overnight direct flight from IAD to Heathrow. Aside from an obnoxious woman in front of me who tried several times to ram her seat back into my knees - and then complained about it! (resulting in her receiving a duty free voucher) - the flight was uneventful and on time. We tried to get some sleep on the flight, but didn't have much success given the time zone our bodies were used to.

usopen-07-lexus-ball-sm.jpgHanna and I traveled to New York City last weekend for the 2007 US Open. We had a great time, getting to see many of the great players of modern times (Federer, the Williams sisters, Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, James Blake, etc.). We did not get a chance to see Justine Henin, who just won the womens' singles final last night (and quite convincingly at that), but that's life. We also got to see a couple young American up-n-comers (Isner and Young). Overall, it was a great time!

My trip pictures are up on my photos site. No videos this time. If you're on Facebook, you can see a subset there, too.

Our First European Adventure

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In July 2007 we (being Hanna and I) undertook our first big international adventure with a tour to Italy and Greece. As I'd never been to Europe before, we opted to do a managed tour with a company (Contiki) that caters to 18-35 year olds, which was preferable in our minds to tagging along with the oldies. :) We settled on the Rome, Sorrento, Athens tour while we were skiing at Crested Butte. It was a decent deal, all things considered, and a good time.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken (1915)

I've finally gotten around to posting pictures from my trip. I also had a few videos, mainly of the Musei Vaticani where flashes were not permitted. Oh, also, by popular demand, I have setup a Facebook site using my primary email address.

Our tour itinerary from Contiki was as follows

* Day 1: Depart for Europe
* Day 2: Arrive Rome
* Day 3: Rome
* Day 4: Rome
* Day 5: Rome to Sorrento
* Day 6: Sorrento - Isle of Capri
* Day 7: Sorrento to Adriatic Ferry
* Day 8: Adriatic Ferry to Athens
* Day 9: Athens
* Day 10: End Athens

The rest of this blog entry (extensive as it is) will follow this itinerary outline as I reflect on our time abroad. Before I launch into that, however, I just want to say that we really enjoyed our trip, and are in fact actively planning our next adventure abroad. We would ideally like to spend a month or more in Europe, though we may also like to live abroad, such as in Germany. Only time will tell where we'll end up, though I assure that we'll be selecting our own path, and hopefully following the one less traveled by.

Home Again, And Then Some...

We made it back home yesterday and are officially in a state of exhaustion. I'll be posting more in the next couple weeks on the trip, including pictures. For now, it's just a matter of getting my feet back under me.

Incidentally, I completed my quest to re-read all the Harry Potter books and then read HP7 in about a day (mostly on the flight yesterday). The ending seemed ok, though a agree with Hanna's comment that it is a bit of a let-down being done with the series. I'm now quite curious how the HP6 and HP7 movies will turn out, since they've made such significant changed in HP4 and HP5 (like, what happened to Dobby's prevalent role?!?). Ah, well...

(Note: just noticed on 8/8 that this post never got published, so have just published it now)

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