Best of the Best – Top 10 Photos from Each Continent

In this time of forced quarantine and limited travel options, I recently released a seven-part series of Top Ten travel photos from each continent on my website Customtravelart.com. For the benefit of my loyal cadre of readers on my Trip Accomplice blog, I’ve shared links below to each of the seven posts – all in one place! I hope that you can derive some joy, inspiration and comfort from these images and that they might tide you over until it’s time to get out there in person once more.

And if you haven’t already done so, I invite you to visit www.customtravelart.com for great gift ideas for the traveler in your life

North America

South America

Europe

Africa

Asia

Australia & Oceania

Antarctica

Share Your Love For All Things Travel With A Gift From Customtravelart.com!

Whether it’s a custom tee, bucket list design or personalized departure or arrivals board, Custom Travel Art can create the perfect gift for the traveler in your life – even if that traveler is you! Browse our collection now for the perfect travel gift.

Keep Your Memories Alive Through the “Art” of Travel

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A personalized Departures Board brings your travel memories into your decor

During this difficult time, when traveling freely about the globe seems as far-fetched as traveling freely about the moon, it’s both frustrating and therapeutic to think back on trips gone by. Sure, it’s wonderful to reflect on the memories made, the experiences had, and if you’re like me, the meals eaten. Yet at the same time, it’s hard to avoid stoking the flames of wanderlust that are unfortunately just too far out of reach for the time being. But in my opinion, if I may take some creative license with a famous phrase, “it’s better to have traveled, than to have never traveled at all.”

Yes, even the best of trips must eventually come to an end, so a wise traveler recognizes that taking the trip is just one phase (arguably the most enjoyable one) of integrating the experience into the fabric of their life. The trickier one, is making those memories last.

In the past I’ve written about some effective ways of doing so, such as keeping a journal and making a photo book. Now, I’m pleased to announce my newest venture that provides fellow travel enthusiasts another way to preserve those travel memories – a customized piece of art.

In my ongoing love affair with all things travel, I have recently launched a new website – www.customtravelart.com – where I take elements of travel experiences and transform them into a variety of personalized products with an artistic flair. If you’ll forgive the shameless self-promotion, I’d like to share a few of the ways I can help you commemorate and preserve your precious travel memories.

Custom Departure Boards

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List your top 13 destinations and the year visited for a custom departure board wall canvas to adorn your home or office

What’s more iconic to travel than an old-fashioned departures board? With this product you can choose your thirteen favorite destinations – along with the year traveled –  and have them preserved on a personalized departures board canvas. It’s sure to draw the admiration (or envy) of visitors to your home or office. See more here.

Custom T-Shirts for the Savvy Traveler

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Celebrate your favorite trip of all time with a custom airport code tee.

We all have that one trip that sticks with us – the one that given the chance to go back in time, we’d do it all over again. With that feeling in mind, I’ve devised the custom airport code tee (including city names for the airportilogically uninformed  – and no, airportilogically is not a real word). All you have to do is choose your starting and ending destination airports and voila! You’ve got a commemorative t-shirt to celebrate that favorite trip. See more here.

Original T-Shirt Designs

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Show off your “stamp collection” with an original design tee

In another life, I worked in the art department of a silkscreen company, which on occasion forced me to bring great ugliness into the world, courtesy of a few design-challenged clients. Therefore it is with great pleasure that I’m able to partially repay my debt to society with some of my own original designs, conceived for the avid traveler. See more here.

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Cop a traveler’s attitude with a Departures Board Been There Done That tee.

See more here.

Witty Tees for Seniors

Let’s face it – many who have the time and means to travel are those with a certain level of life experience. I’m not saying that they’re old, just well-traveled. So with those “of a certain age” in mind, I’ve designed a few witty tees for the senior traveler who is ready and willing to own both their age and their mileage.

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Show off your “senior moments” with this collage of iconic, original design scenes of noteworthy sites around the world.

See more here.

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Be proud to wander off with this witty tee featuring original “stamps” from around the world

See more here.

The All-Important Travel Poster

My first inspiration for Custom Travel Art was from looking at vintage travel posters from the early days of air travel and thinking “wouldn’t it be cool to have a custom version of those for my trips?” After that spark of initiative, my creative juices got a-flowing, and I designed a “travel sticker” poster, paying artistic tribute to all of the 75 countries/territories I’ve visited to date. Though definitely more time-consuming, I’m offering that same opportunity to others, either via a custom travel sticker poster or custom world map poster, which artistically portrays all of the countries you’ve visited.

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Showcase your travels with a custom “travel stickers” collage poster

See more here.

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Create a personalized world map that showcases your own travels

See more here

Summing it up

The act of traveling is just one phase of the joy of travel. Keeping the memories alive allows you to preserve the wonder, the contentment and fascination indefinitely. It’s with this noble goal in mind that I share the news of my newest undertaking, and hopefully, can help you envision ways a custom piece of artwork can make your trip of a lifetime, last for a lifetime.


Do you have any ideas or thoughts of what would make a great piece of travel art? Share them here by commenting below.

5 Life Lessons from Climbing Adam’s Peak

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Becoming the stair master on Adam’s Peak

Deep in the lush and rugged interior of Sri Lanka is a unique attraction that draws more than just tourists. Sri Pada, better known as Adam’s Peak,  is a conical mountain in the heart of tea country that is considered sacred by Buddhists and Hindus alike. It takes its name from the “sacred footprint” located near the summit, which Buddhists believe to be the footprint of the Buddha; Hindus believe was made by Shiva, and some Christians and Muslims hold to be that of Adam. Of course, it could have just been made by a clumsy ancient contractor, but my interest wasn’t in footprints or anything of the like. My intentions were twofold: accomplish a feat that would be the feather in any serious traveler’s cap, and be there to witness what is considered one of the most impressive views anywhere.

Guidebooks and websites touted the climb up Adam’s Peak as a thrilling experience, especially during its most popular season (December – May) or on full moons when a steady stream of pilgrims make the arduous trek to the top. Not having Adam’s Peak on my original itinerary, I hadn’t done much research on it, and when a group of friends suggested that we tackle the challenge by doing the traditional overnight climb, I got caught up in the whirlwind of testosterone and counted myself in. Once again, to my thighs and calves – I’m sorry.

I didn’t come during the popular time, nor on a full moon, so instead of finding a zig-zag trail of light gleaming like a beacon toward the summit, our party’s four hour drive from the outskirts of Colombo ended in a dark parking lot surrounded by black at the base of the mountain. We arrived a bit after midnight, and after purchasing a warm cap for the chill that awaited us up above, we set off on a path that passed through an active temple and began a gradual ascent that would not only test me physically, but on reflection, gave me some mental clarity as a result of the challenge. I now pass those lessons on to you in the hopes that it enriches your life, and maybe even saves you from a very (very!) steep climb.

A Few Facts & Our Band of Travelers

To give the lessons I’m about to list some context, I need to mention a few things. First, the trail was approximately 7 kilometers long (over 4 miles) one way, and that way was mostly up. Second, I’m in my early forties and a bit overweight. I wouldn’t say obese, but let’s just say that me and gravity aren’t the best of friends.

Our travel party consisted of myself, two other guys around forty – Jason and Ryan – the latter being someone who has lived in Sri Lanka for several years and made the climb before, as well as Jason’s two sons – Ethan and Ian – and their friends from the U.K., Harry and Zak, who all ranged in age between 16 and 21. Bear in mind that the climb was undertaken on no sleep and with no prior training. I say that so that I don’t look like a total wimp in what you’re about to read.

Lesson 1: Sometimes You Need To Go At Your Own Pace

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The starting gate/finish line at Adam’s Peak

We were all excited and energized when we started our climb in the darkness. We had a brisk pace for the first half hour, laughing and joking all the while. But as the initial burst of enthusiasm wore off, it became glaringly clear to me that I wouldn’t be able to keep up for long. So the boys took off brimming with youthful vigor – which was quite a bit more vigor than I could muster at that time of night – while the “more mature” ones took things at a slower pace.

It was around the 1-hour mark that the steps, which at first came in intervals with stretches of flat ground in between, became a never-ending staircase that seemed intent on coming as close to 90 degrees vertical as possible. In addition, this was not a uniform set of stairs, measured and constructed according to building codes. One step would be 6 inches high; the next 12; the next 3, and so on. Plus, it was dark. Really dark. Like jungle on a mountain overnight dark.

So as I struggled and noticed how Jason and Ryan politely waited for me at each landing, I came across the first of the five primary lessons I learned from this experience – sometimes you just have to go at your own pace. Trying to keep up with those who were more fit than I was just wearing me out and holding others back. That principle can be applied in nearly every aspect of life, whether it’s professionally, emotionally, socially or any other kind of ‘-ally’ you can think of. Modesty is defined as knowing and keeping within one’s limits, and whether you’re looking to achieve balance in your life or climbing a Sri Lankan mountain in the dark, those words are proven to apply.

Lesson 2 – When Things Get Tough, Just Put One Foot In Front of the Other

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A Portion of the Endless Stairs

Upon recognizing lesson number one, I told Jason and Ryan to go ahead without me. Ryan told me of a turnoff that was just past the halfway point up the mountain where we could meet again and watch the sunrise together without having to schlep it all the way to the top. Remember that point. It comes into play a bit later.

Fast forward to an hour and a half later and I find myself facing a endless series of stairs all by my lonesome with only my cell phone light – which I used sparingly – and the occasional fellow tourist racing by for company. I was beyond exhausted and my mind struggled to comprehend the existence of so many steps. I specifically remember hitting a wall of fatigue – both physical and mental – and thinking that I wanted to just give up.

Pausing to rest midway up an absurdly steep flight of stairs I took stock of my situation. My only illumination was ambient starlight filtering through the cloud cover. There were all sorts of noises coming from the jungle around me, none of which I could see. I was going on no sleep and my legs were beginning to shake from the workout. A light drizzle began to fall, making the chilly air even chillier. And to top it off, I discovered that the mild pinch I felt on my ankle was actually a leech that had helped itself to my bloodstream and had now gorged itself into a slimy black mass.

If the option of summoning a helicopter to take me away were available, I have no doubt that I would have chosen to. But in the absence of helicopters hanging around sacred mountains in the middle of the night, I realized that I had only two options: renounce the progress I had made to that point and give up the quest as a loss, or just keep plodding forward, one raggedly uneven step at a time. Too stubborn, proud and ashamed to concede the battle to my advancing age, I chose the latter, and with resigned determination, I slowly but steadily crept further up the mountain.

That’s when it struck me that when things in life get bad, those are really the same options we all face. We can give up, thereby renouncing the progress we’ve made, or we can keep going – even if it’s painfully slow. And the antidote to giving up, is to keep moving forward, even if you can’t see past the step in front of you. I put one foot in front of another until I reached my goal, and that made all the difference. It’s a lesson I hope to apply to other daunting tasks I might face, which may be more metaphorical than literal as in this case, but require the same decision and determination.

Lesson 3 – Sometime’s It’s Better Not to Know How Much Further There Is To Go

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The boy band at the summit. I’m the token ‘guy that’s clearly out of his twenties’ on the right.

Cut back to me at 3.5 hours into my journey, and I was feeling some confusion. I distinctly remembered Ryan’s description of the turn-off just past the halfway point up the mountain, but of course, being in a darkened jungle on a steep slope, I had no idea of where the top was, much less where the halfway point would be. Now the sky began to lighten, and I was just hoping to get to a place where I could watch the sunrise and see the expected amazing panorama unfold. At the same time I shook my head at the idea that after 3.5 hours of climbing, I still didn’t see Jason or Ryan, concluding that if I hadn’t even made it halfway up, I was really in bad shape.

Then something interesting happened. From the direction of a near-vertical staircase looming above me, I thought I heard multiple voices. It had been awhile since another party blew by me on their way up, and more out of curiosity than anything else, I figured I’d just go up this one last flight of stairs before finding a spot to watch the morning show. To my surprise, the noise was from Ethan, Ian, Harry and Zak, who had been keeping themselves entertained for the past hour there at the summit. I had made it all the way to the top without even knowing it!

I’ll never forget the combination of amusement and surprise on the boys’ faces when they saw me emerge from the mist like some stubborn old horse who didn’t know when to call it quits. Apparently Jason and Ryan had turned off well before and I went right past them in the darkness (if you guys are reading this I forgive you. And also, I’m giving you the raspberries right now). As I sat down in triumph, giddy from exhaustion and simultaneously contemplating how best to remove a leech from my ankle, I reflected on how only by never seeing the top – i.e. how far was left to go – was I able to reach it. I felt certain that if a few hours before I were able to gauge my pitiful progress on the mountain, I would have given up on reaching the top, concluding that it just wasn’t possible. Clearly, I would have been wrong.

That lesson has played true several times in my life, most notably in 2009, when I found myself facing a bout of severe depression. Had I known ahead of time that it would be another 3+ years before I would emerge, and all the loss and pain that would occur during that time, I’m sure I would have given up in my heart. But with the hope and prospect of a positive change lingering just ahead on the horizon, I kept putting one foot in front of another (see lesson number two) and eventually came through stronger and wiser. Not knowing when the trial would end gave me the motivation to keep on pushing, because I thought that at any moment it might get better, and kept thinking that until the day finally arrived that it did. The lesson? Don’t worry if there’s no end in sight, it’s there, and may just be a lot closer than you think.

Lesson 4 – It Really Is All About The Journey, Not The Destination

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View from the stairs of Adam’s Peak

So now it’s ten minutes after I reached the top; I’ve successfully removed the leech from my ankle and watched approvingly as either Harry or Zak squashed it with a satisfying splat. The sunrise was due to arrive in just a few minutes, but the sky, while lighter, showed no gradation in its hues of gray. That’s when I realized that the spectacular show that we came to see, was going to be obscured by clouds. To have come all this way at a cost of so much effort (and blood loss) would ordinarily have left me a bit bitter.

But as my breathing returned to normal, I realized that it was never about the view. It was successfully making the trip, pushing myself to (and beyond) the limit and feeling the subtle satisfaction that comes with accomplishment that I sought, and eventually achieved. So while I would have loved the views I subsequently saw in images taken from the top, I contented myself with my unlikely accomplishment and set about getting down the mountain on jelly-legs that were shaking so badly, Ethan stayed behind while the others went ahead just to make sure I didn’t get down by tumbling.

Just for the record, about halfway down – probably around where Jason and Ryan were supposed to wait for me (I couldn’t help getting that last dig in) – the cloud cover withdrew somewhat and we were treated to impressive views of the undulating patterns of terraced tea plantations bathed in brilliant green that characterize the region, which I would recommend to anyone visiting Sri Lanka.

Lesson 5 – Pain Is Temporary, Great Stories Are Forever

I was both annoyed and dismayed that even with gravity on my side, it took me a full three hours to get back to our starting point. Along the way I got some great photographs, had a nice conversation with Ethan, and apparently even picked up another leech (which I disposed of at the bottom). We met up with the others at a nearby hotel who were quite casually enjoying their breakfast. Feeling energized by a combination of pride and sleep deprivation, I gave my first account of the experience – a rough draft if you will – of the retelling that I knew would come. The fatigue and soreness have now passed, but I take comfort that I still have something to show for my efforts – a great story to go along with the life lessons I listed above. You can be certain that with the passing of time, the trail will get longer, the stairs will get steeper, and I will be covered head to toe in leeches. And the best part is knowing that this story is going to last as long as I do, which in my book, is well worth any climb.

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The lush scenery of Sri Lanka’s Tea Country

Did you have an adventure that taught you a valuable life lesson? Share it with your fellow travelers in the comment section below!

Share Your Love For All Things Travel With A Gift From Customtravelart.com!

Whether it’s a custom tee, bucket list design or personalized departure or arrivals board, Custom Travel Art can create the perfect gift for the traveler in your life – even if that traveler is you! Browse our collection now for the perfect travel gift.

Suck the Juice Out of Your Next Vacation

Sunny or Cloudy, seize the day!
Sunny or Cloudy, seize the day!

In my high school, Latin wasn’t a language students were forced to (or could choose to) study. Yet, it’s a safe bet to say that most of my generation learned at least two words in Latin during the late eighties/early nineties due to the (now) classic film Dead Poets Society. If you get the reference, then I’m sure you already know which two words they are: carpe diem—seize the day. Yes, those two words were the underlying message throughout the film, and inspired a group of adolescent boys to drink deep from their lives and make the most of them. That same principle carries over to travel, and I’m pleased to now present another aspect of my “travel philosophy”, namely: suck the juice out of every experience.

 

It isn’t hard to take things for granted—even on vacation. Usually our minds are so cluttered from the life we leave behind that it takes awhile to clear out the distractions and pay attention to the here and now. Failure to do so can lead to regret further down the line, as no one wants to look back on a travel experience (& the costs involved) and wish they had done things differently or lament that they didn’t have the wherewithal to recognize the significance of what they were doing and thinking at the time.

 

So how does one avoid post-traveler’s regret? How does one not just scrape the surface of an experience with their teeth, but rather bite down hard and suck out the juice as rivulets of sticky nectar drip down your chin until you’re left with little more than dried out lump of pulp? Here’s a few words of advice from someone who metaphorically needs a bib.

 

Take A Mental Snapshot

 

Oftentimes, we don’t recognize our greatest experiences until they’re over. Developing a habit of pausing to examine various moments in time during your trip can do much to ramp up your awareness. When composing your mental snapshot be sure to include the following elements: Who you’re with; What you’re doing; & Where you are. Capturing these factors will not only bring delight as you fill in the blanks, but also prepare you for my next suggestion.

 

Don’t Just Swallow—Digest

 

Just as our bodies need time to assimilate what we put into them, so too our minds need a chance to reflect on the experiences had if we’re to get the most meaning out of them. At this point—perhaps on the long flight back home, or a monotonous car or train ride between destinations—there are a few secondary questions to ask yourself to go along with the who, what and where from the first step. For instance, compare those answers to your previous expectations. Did you ever think you would be in ______ with ______ doing _____? Chances are your answer will be no, leading you to better appreciate what you experienced, and setting the stage for future delight in the unscripted nature of life. Of course, our ability to digest is dependent upon how we eat, which leads me to the third factor…

 

Eat Well, But Slowly

 

Given the time constraints most people have, the temptation is there to cram as much in as possible and sort it out later. True, you can accomplish a lot that way, but just like with any enjoyable meal, it always tastes better if you slow down and savor the flavor. I know from personal experience that this is hard. Even when it comes to literal eating, I’m always the first one done with their plate. But over time I’ve learned to desist (or at least pull back) from cramming my metaphorical face when traveling and to take the time to absorb the subtle nuances that are lost in a whirlwind tour. So stare out at that sunset. Sit and talk with some locals in the piazza, plaza or praca. Float on your back and gaze up at the clouds. And by all means enjoy that gelato, samosa or kebab. Just do it slowly enough that you’re aware of the experience.

 

Armed with these basic tenets of travel philosophy, you can now not only suck the juice out of your vacation but your everyday life as well. Remember carpe diem. And while I’d recommend against standing up on your plane seat or cruise dinner table and shouting out “O Captain, my Captain!” you should be able to seize the day on the days you travel and also be able to hang onto them.