Extraordinary Travelers – Cosmas the Flat Earther

Sorry Seinfeld fans, I’m not talking about Cosmo Kramer. Cosmas Indicopuleustes was a far more fascinating figure though, although probably not as delightful at opening doors and making witty comments.

Cosmas was a writer, merchant, traveler, monk who is most famous for his 6th century tome Christian Topography in which he provided some of the earliest world maps on record for the Byzantine Emperor Justinian.

cosmas indian ocean explorerBefore becoming a monk and a hermit, Cosmas was a very successful voyager and trader who visited Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sri Lanka, and most famously, India. Cosmas seemingly difficult last name was easy for Byzantines and Greeks – it was Indicopleustes and essentially means  “Voyager of the Indian Ocean” – which was helpful when you were trying to remember which Cosmas to invite to your Christmas party – you wouldn’t want to accidentally invite the one who explored the Aegean – Cosmas Aegeapleustes…that guy is impossible to deal with…

Of course, you might not have wanted to invite Cosmas Indicopleustes either since one of his most famous conventions was that the world was flat. It was he who introduced that idea to the early Christian Church. He spent considerable time in his book and in his life trying to prove that Ptolemy’s view that the Earth was a sphere was laughable.  He was of the much more (to him) reasonable opinion that it was flat and had a treasure chest type lid  on it.

flat earth photo by John O'Sullivan

He was not the person that ‘cosmology’ was named after, though it was one of his passions.  Mostly, it was the fact that he covered some serious ground and drew maps about it, that he is remembered for, though, like Donald Trump, his ridiculous views about some things eclipse his true accomplishments.

 

Vagobond Travel Museum

Welcome to the Vagobond Travel Museum!

Turkish Food
Eating with Turks is half the fun.

The web is full of great travel blogs, travel stories, travel photos and travel videos – the hard part is finding them. bring you the highlights here at the Vagobond Travel Museum.

I have to admit, that over the past week, I’ve been pretty occupied with a few things – missing a flight, having a spontaneous trip, catching another flight, getting settled (temporarily) into an apartment in Istanbul, showing my wife around, etc etc  – but still, I’ve managed to find these great inductees to the Vagobond Travel Museum.

One of the great things about travel is finding things you don’t expect in the least. To be honest, I’m not even sure this photo is real, but whether it is a concept or executed, the bottom line is that it looks cool and the meaning behind the words rings true. Life comes at you fast.

If you’re an American and you want to see Cuba, you might just want to check this out. A guide to Americans travelling to Cuba.
I love great travel quotes. I hope to someday say something clever enough to be quoted, until then, I’ll keep reading quotes like “A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck

Check out the 50 most inspiring travel quotes of all time from the Matador Network.

On my wishlist of things to see is the (March 8) Hindu Festival of Color in India – Holi. This post from Karthik Tantri explains so much of why I have this on my travel to do list/

Another beautiful travel piece from the Independent. This photo from beneath the waters of Grenada is but one example of why this artcle by Matt Carroll is a fine example of the art of travel writing. This sentence alone should send you to the article “Ahead of us lay a writer sitting at his desk, blue and yellow fish darting around his typewriter: the ultimate in creative inspiration.”

I’ve been considering a trip to Ukraine with my family…this article from popped on my radar at just the right time.  Why Ukraine? I’ve always felt that holding Ukraine was the key to winning the game of Risk. In any event, here are five ways to enjoy Ukraine if you go.

Last week we rode horses on the beach in Essaouira, Morocco -next time maybe we will go riding horses in Iceland with Marcel Theroux.

Vagobond Travel Museum – Curating travel around the web

Travel Museum CuratorWelcome to the Vagobond Travel Museum.

The web is full of great travel blogs, travel stories, travel photos and travel videos – the hard part is finding them amidst all the garbage. Through the week, I am curating the best travel stories I find and then I will bring you the highlights here at the Vagobond Travel Museum.

These are my first Travel Museum Inductions

France Today always has incredible content, but this quirky piece on finding the best flea markets in Paris went beyond the usual Francophile and got into something that feels much more tactile. Want to experience France and take something home that is more than a trinket?

Pics from my travelsThis picture from Timothy Allen’s ‘Pics from my travels’ was without a doubt my favorite picture of the week.

Tips from Hong KongSometimes, it’s easier to just buy a guidebook than to read a travel blog for ideas about where to go or what to do, but I found this piece about Hong Kong from Off The Meat Hook to be well worth reading. Great pictures, fantastic style and some very good tips.

Italian Snail farmsI love it when I can find something that is short, well written, teaches me something and that is just a little bit wierd and interesting. This piece on snail farming in Italy from ItalianNotes fit the bill perfectly. Who knew?

Monkey Forest Survival FlipNomad offered a great piece this week on 10 Survival Tips for Visitors of the Monkey Forest. Great pictures, well written commentary, and interesting to read whether you are going there or not.

National Geographic’s Digital Nomad paid a visit to Tsukiji Fishmarket and took some great iPhone shots. This is a place that I’ve wanted to visit for a long while and Andrew Evans photos and commentary make it clear that it’s a very interesting destination.

Bootsnall this week offered a great piece on 8 of the cheapest places to go for wine tasting. It’s an odd budget and luxury travel blend but it works. Great recommendations and who says only people with money like great wine?

polar bear swim Amusing Planet has become one of my favorite online destinations to just look at photos…this piece on Polar Bear Swims around the world sung too my soul.

Laos ruinedAnd here is some brilliant travel writing and sad sad reality. I was in Viang Vieng back in 2001 and it was heaven, but I could already see that things were heading in the wrong direction. This piece from Old World Wandering almost makes me want to cry…and makes me glad that I haven’t been back there.

Finally, here is the best travel video I came across this week:

And while there were plenty of other great travel stories for this weeks inductions into the Vagobond Travel Museum. To let me know about any great travel pieces, contact me using the contact form here at Vagobond.com

4 Great Musical Acts Who Found Inspiration Through Travel

 

Abbey Road in India cc image courtesy of UppyPhoto on FlickrThey say that a change is as good as a rest, and when it comes to seeking inspiration most musicians will tell you that a change of scenery is as good as it comes. The best musicians take inspiration from their surroundings: so if you’re starting to find that you have songwriters block, it might just be time to strap on that backpack and get your groove back. You certainly won’t be the first: in fact you’ll be following in the footsteps of some of the biggest names in popular music. Names like…

 

The Beatles

Arguably the most influential band in the world, the Beatles are behind many 70’s youngsters’ ambitions to fly cheaply to Indiato ‘find themselves’. In February 1968 the fab four attended a transcendental meditation training session in Rishikesh, resulting in one of the most productive periods of their career. Although the trip wasn’t exactly idyllic (most accounts speak of tensions between the Beatles and the Maharishi) the time out of the spotlight certainly gave the band the peace and the time to compose a great body of work: including most of the songs from The White Album.

 

David Bowie in Travel cc IMage courtesy of Quicheisinsane on FlickrDavid Bowie

It seemed like all was lost for Bowie before he bit the bullet and left LA,grabbing a one way ticket to Berlin after a brief stint in Paris. In 1976 the thin white duke was exhausted and the trials of fame were starting to get the better of him: Bowie later said that during this period he lived on “red peppers, cocaine, and milk” (not the healthiest diet). Three years of exile in Berlin was the perfect antidote. Working with Brian Eno, Bowie released his ‘Berlin Trilogy’: a set of three albums that included one of his best albums, “Heroes”. Musicians have to take risks, and during the 70’s the Berlin Wall was still standing: the Cold War inspiration for the album becomes deeper when you realise that it was recorded not 500m from the wall itself.

 

Paul Simon

Despite a fairly successful career after his partnership with Garfunkel ended, by the mid 80’s Paul Simon was starting to lose his touch. Disappointing sales of his album “Hearts & Bones” made him believe that he had lost his mojo once and for all. By chance he listened to a cassette of instrumental South African music, which kindled his artistic flair, and inspired him to visit South Africa. The trip resulted in his Grammy award winning album “Graceland”, and a return to the spotlight. Like Bowie before him, the trip was a risk: during the 80’s apartheid was still in full swing and most of the world was boycotting South Africa.

 

Snoop Dog er...Snoop Lion cc image courtesy of thecomeupshow on FlickrSnoop Dogg… or should that be Snoop Lion?

More recently, a simple trip to Jamaica turned out to be life changing for Snoop Dogg. After meeting with some Rastafarian priests, the rapper had an epiphany and now claims to be the reincarnation of Bob Marley. Snoop is “tired of hip hop” and is planning to make reggae music instead under his new moniker, ‘Snoop Lion’, and plans to release records that young and old alike can enjoy. We’ll be keeping our eyes on this transformation with bated breath.

Best Hotel in the World- Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipu, India

by Nishant Churuthi

What is the world’s nicest hotel? There may be some argument about it, but guest writer Nishant Churuthi is pretty sure he has found the best hotel in the world.  

There are many ways by which a hotel can be judged, and one of the more popular ways is by rating hotels with stars, ranging from one star, which means that the hotel is simply a tourist hotel, to 5 stars, which means the hotel is a super luxury one. Though there is no single global classification, the most agreed upon rating is the star system.

Also, though officially there are no hotels in the world rated higher than 5, every now and then we see a hotel advertising to be a 7 star one. There is no way to check the authenticity of such claims, apart from visiting the hotel yourself and seeing if it really deserves such a rating. All said, however, every now and then we come across such a hotel that you would think deserves more than even 7 stars.

Udaivilas Udaipur8 stars? Maybe, but it’s not official. One such hotel that its visitors have constantly placed in the “above 5 stars” category is the Oberoi Udaivilas, located int he beautiful city of Udaipur, Rajasthan, India.

The city of Udaipur is one of the most beautiful ones in India, and was voted the best city in the world by Travel + Leisure, USA in its 2009 Readers’ Poll. It is a city of lakes and palaces. Not just normal palaces. Magnificent ones. Reflecting the true glory of the place, the Oberoi Udaivilas is indeed a majestic hotel, and does justice to its praise of deserving 8 stars. At first glance, the hotel itself seems to be a palace. Every inch of the hotel showcases the rich Indian tradition, and the courtyards, fountains, pools and gardens all bear testimony.

Once you enter the hotel, you no longer will believe that this hotel actually exists in the 21st century, it’s so surreal. best hotel in the worldEach and every thing, right from the hand painted domes, to the intricately carved doorways, has been crafted with love and perfection that leaves no doubt in your mind regarding the royalness of the place.

The hotel is accessed by traveling by boat through Lake Pichola, and the ride itself will leave you spellbound. Each visitor is then treated to the ceremonial welcome at the entrance. The Oberoi Uaivilas has rooms to suit all needs. Rooms that open to private pools are available. All rooms feature exquisite decorations and the glory of the erstwhile kingdoms of India is regaled in its entire splendor at the Oberoi Udaivilas.

All kinds of international cuisines are available, and the specialty is the traditional local Rajasthan cuisine, which is prepared by the best chefs in the country.

The hotel has its own luxurious spa, which overlooks the Lake and is a heaven in itself. World class trained therapists provide your body with all the relaxation it needs and you are sure to feel exhilarated and rejuvenated to the fullest.

With impeccable service, the Oberoi Udaivilas truly puts the phrase “there’s never too much luxury”, to the ultimate test. If there is heaven on earth, this is it and we should all get the chance to stay there, at least once in a lifetime.

Nishant Churuthi is a writer and scholar in Udaipur, India. He enjoys spending time with his family, writing, and seeing the many splendors which his country offers.

 

Palampur, India – Kangra Tea and Lord Shiva’s House

Srishti Jha introduces Vagobond readers to the beauty and wonders of Palampur, India.

I had a wonderful trip to Palampur last month. I went with my friends and two teachers from my college in Delhi.

The picturesque valley of Palampur is located in the Kangra region of Himachal Pradesh, a hilly state in India. Palampur is a famous hill town and once constituted a section of Jalandhara kingdom.

This beautiful hill town is very famous for its Kangra tea. The major attraction of Palampur recognized throughout the world is the famous Kangra tea. Kangra tea is herbal and known for its distinctive flavor.

Our trip covered Palampur and the Kangra Valley, places near Palampur, the tea estates, and Mcleod Ganj.

Our flight left us at Gaggal airport early in the morning. Gaggal is 35 kilometers away from Palampur. From there, we took a bus to Palampur. This journey was breathtaking as we could view beautiful snow covered mountains on both sides of the road. On the way, we also visited the famous Buddha waterfall. It is a very thin streak below the rocks, however in the rainy season, the Buddha waterfall swells and roars like thunder.Palampur, India
After reaching our hotel, we enjoyed local dishes for breakfast and were rejuvenated with new energy. From there, we took a bus to reach the Kangra Tea factory where we saw the entire process of making tea.

After the tea factory, we visited a famous artist’s house in Andretta. His name was Shobah Singh and his paintings beautifully depict mesmerizing scenes of the Dhouladhar mountain range.

Lord Shiva's PlaceWe went to Baijnath Temple, which has archaeological as well as religious importance. It is believed that Ravana, a character of the famous epic Ramayana worshiped Lord Shiva in this temple. Baijnath temple is considered to be is one of the ‘Twelve ‘Jyotirlingams’ [Lord Shiva’s place] & the Shivratri Festival is celebrated here.

It was evening by the time we finished visiting the temple and so we returned to the hotel to rest. The next day, we started toward Taragarh Palace. Muslims used this place to propagate Islamic principles and in 1933, the ‘Nawab of Bhavalpur’ had built a palace there, which is called Alhilal.

The palace was used as warehouse until 1949 and then it was converted into Motel Taragarh Palace after India’s independence.

Palampur, IndiaWe also went to Bir, while returning from Palampur. It is a unique place for paragliding. There are many Buddhist monasteries. Beautiful Tibetan handicrafts were available near monasteries. I bought a small purse and few mementos to cherish the memory of this wonderful trip.

Srishti Jha inherited the passion of writing and lives in Delhi. Srishti writes “I want to tell people to love nature and do not spoil it. I love traveling and writing. I love adventure sports too. Whenever I am free, I go for a tour. Next year I am planning a trip to South India and Shirdi in Maharashtra. Shirdi is a religious place and the famous Sai Temple is located there.

 

Dharbanga, India – Home of the Ramayana

 

World travel begins with where you live and this guest post from Gunjan Priya highlights one of the most significant cities in India – Dharbanga, India – Home of the Ramayana.

Located in North Bihar in India, Darbhanga is a fascinating mixture of beauty, history and modernization. Hundreds of ponds, mango orchards, flowers and cattle add to its rural look on the one hand while black serpentine roads, the white buildings of Darbhanga Medical College and beautifully colored high rise hotels and other buildings indicate Darbhanga’s steps toward urbanization.

The original name of Darbhanga was ‘Dwarbang’ which literally means ‘gateway to Bengal.’ People link Darbhanga with the ancient epic Ramayana. Another name associated with Darbhanga is ‘Mithila’ which is originated from the belief that Goddess Sita, daughter of King Mithi was born in this region. Mithilanchal region consists of Darbhanga district, and the neighboring towns Samastipur and Madhubani.

Total population of Darbhanga is around 300,000 of which majority consist of Hindus while the others are Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. People speak Maithili, Hindi, and most educated people can understand a little English too.

darbhnaga, India adventuresLocated in the alluvial plains of the Ganges River, it has several rivers – Kosi, Bagmati and Kareh– flooding the entire district of Darbhanga every year due to heavy Monsoon rainfall. Darbhanga experiences four seasons in a year. From November to February it is winter there, summer starts in May with hottest temperatures and June sets up with heavy rains. Thus, the best time to visit Darbhanga is from October to November and from February to April.

Darbhanga boasts of being the land of famous ancient Indian scholars like Vidyapati and Mandan Mishra.

The economy of Darbhanga is mainly based on cultivation, but the town area has art, craft, paintings, bakery products and cement factories too. The famous folk art– Madhubani paintings or Mithila paintings originated in this region and even today one can find several Madhubani painting and craft centers all across the town. It is a good source of income for people engaged in handicrafts.

A Local dry fruit called Makhana is another delicacy of Darbhanga. It is grown in ponds and contributes to major portions of the Town’s economy.

Spots to visit in Darbhanga

Darbhanga’ Kings Fort is a beautiful copy of Delhi’s Red Fort and still remains in its glorious color and strength. The local administration has used this fort for housing different colleges of Darbhanga University. Lotuses in ponds inside the fort give a heavenly look to this ancient city.

Temples are another beauty of this ancient town. Shyama Mai, Kalisthan are few famous temples here, where thousands of local people make pilgrimages every day.

 

Making Money While Traveling – A Few Ideas

I wrote this back in October of 2010 – but it’s still true today. In fact, in 2019 – it’s even easier. They call us digital nomads now! Funny how the world changes – when I started this blog – there was no such thing and few of us doing it – today – the world is crowded with digital nomadism. To update this a little – I hit a really good stretch with Vagobond for a while – selling links – then Google changed the pagerank algo and it dropped to nearly nothing. Same goes for adwords – it was good and then it became not so good. 

 

Earning money while you are traveling the world isn’t as hard as you might think it is. Of course, making a lot of money…that’s quite a bit harder! I can’t say that I’ve mastered the art of making a lot of money whether I am on the road or stationary, but I have learned that no matter how bad the economy is, no matter how depressed a place I might live in, no matter where I am- I can find a way to make a few bucks. Definitely enough to get to somewhere else, take care of my wife and me, and hopefully to have some fun along the way.

Lots of travelers today are having good luck with affiliate marketing and blogging. I’ve been pretty successful at blogging in terms of people liking my writing and coming again and again to my blog, but I can’t say I’ve really had much luck with making money at it (but thanks for the anonymous donations Mom!). Same goes for affiliate marketing. As you might guess, this post has some affiliate links in it (not any more). It won’t cost you anything to use them if the programs look interesting to you, and it will throw a little extra my way if you sign up for them. There it is – full disclosure! (Of course if I were sneaky, I would probably be rich but honesty is a profit killer.)

Of, course, one way that I make money is by teaching language. As a Native English speaker, the world is clamoring at my door to offer me money for teaching others to speak English. I happen to be a very good teacher, so that helps. To get my teaching credential, I went through an online TEFL course. That and being a native gets you through the door and into most countries.

You might want to get more than just the certificate though and start learning how to teach too!
The sad part is how many teachers I meet who don’t know how to teach at all or who are just plain terrible teachers. It just goes to show, that even if you aren’t a good teacher, you can make money in foreign countries as a teacher. You just need to get your TEFL certificate.

Of course, I think the best way to make money while I am on the road is by writing. It’s amazing how many people don’t think they can write, but in fact, if you can talk, you can write! It’s as easy as that (presuming you know things like letters and spelling). You don’t have to have a dictionary vocabulary. You just need to be able to say things in a conversational tone. That’s the tone that works the best on the internet.

There are millions of outlets for writers if you take the time to look.It might be exactly what you are looking for to make some money while you are on the road.

What do you do to make money while you are traveling?

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