Discoveries

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Living outside of the United States and watching television in English usually means a few hours of CNN. But CNN International is a whole other animal from domestic CNN, including how the global iteration of the Atlanta-based Cable News Network produced otherwise-mundane features such as the weather report.

While the weather music is an up-to-date mash-up of pulsing rhythms from around the world, it’s the weather filler from the early 2000s that resonates most with our urge to travel, to explore, to dream. Particularly, it’s the ethereal, transcendent quality of the electro-jazz music, mixed with the cloud imagery and the names of far-off places, that speak directly to an interminable sense of wanderlust and the dream-like nature of global connectedness and, well, travel. You can literally get lost in this.

Thank you, CNN International, for helping us dream.

Is there any other random television spot or filler that makes you want to travel?

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Flying since 1946, Ethiopian Airlines has connected the land of Haile Selassie and the Queen of Sheba to the world. The airline now flies a fleet of Boeing and Airbus jets to 122 destinations around the globe from its hub at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport. But it got its start with just five routes, flown with Douglas C-46 Skytrain aircraft. Ethiopian began as and has remained a testament to the country’s pursuit of modernity.


Have you ever flown Ethiopian?

 

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Travel is an act of love. There is romance in dreaming of a destination. There is seduction in planning the adventure. There is  There is commitment in making the journey. In a time when boundaries and borders are tightening all over the globe, the need for people and places to connect is stronger than ever. When we travel, we get to understand the world from a perspective that we hadn’t considered. We get to see ourselves in people who don’t look like us. We get to be vulnerable. We get to be healed. We get to be surprised, delighted, inspired, and maybe even loved back. We get to be new. We get to be.

Remember, too, that travel—like love—comes in many forms. If physical travel isn’t possible at the moment, you can travel in the pages of a book. You can travel through the fictive dream of the cinema. You can travel on waves of music. Eventually, though, the money and the mood will align, and you’ll find yourself wrapped up in the romance of the road and the seduction of the skies.

Love yourselves this year. Travel.

Happy Everything in 2018!
Ernest White II, Creator
FLY BROTHER

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It’s the end of 2017 and time to take a quick look back in appreciation and gratitude at the phenomenal happenings that have marked my year in travel. I actively planned some of these, but others were manifested by divine hand. Regardless, I’m humbled to say that this has been an incredible year of growth and evolution in my career as a storyteller and explorer.

Filmed 8 episodes of FLY BROTHER, the television show
What started as a simple idea has come to fruition and is still morphing into many iterations and opportunities. While the show didn’t debut on the date that we initially chose or expected, the fact that we filmed an entire season of FLY BROTHER—a hybrid reality-travel television show about friendship and connection across backgrounds and boundaries, and with some of my best friends in life!—doesn’t just speak to an incredible accomplishment this year, but an incredible life accomplishment. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Visited 11 new countries in 2017
1. Chile
2. Georgia
3. Ethiopia
4. Iceland
5. Kenya
6. Kyrgyzstan
7. Mali
8. Mongolia
9. Morocco
10. Portugal
11. Senegal

Spoke about travel and writing at:
Veteran Nomads Muster — Honolulu
New York Travel Festival — New York City
NonfictioNOW — Reykjavik
NMDN Alternative Travel Conference — New York City
Travel Blogger Summit on Study Abroad & Global Citizenship — New York City
TBEX Europe — Killarney, Ireland
Bethany College — Lindsborg, Kansas
Airline Expo 2017 — New York City


Attended the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, which has encouraged my filmmaking endeavors and reminded me that visibility and empowerment are part of my mission. Incidentally, it is illegal to be gay in India, so nearly all the participants and attendees were subject to arrest just by owning their sexuality. That is heroism, folks.

Articles, essays, and other writing published in:
Bradt’s Tajikistan guidebook
The Pilgrimage Chronicles: Embrace the Quest travel anthology
Getaway Magazine
Axess: The Lifestyle Magazine of Celebrity Cruises
Horizons Magazine (Royal Caribbean)


Interviewed in three podcasts:
Deviate with Rolf Potts
Make Light with Karen Walrond
Yusef Wateef, Adventurer!

Finally, the resurrection of FLY BROTHER, the digital travel journal/magazine/blog all rolled into one. I’m going to use the word magazine, however, because I like the idea, and my content is a bit more editorial than most other travel blogs. Tune in for new posts every Monday and Thursday, with supplemental content—ebooks, city guides, webinars—on the way!

In fact, there’s a lot more coming in 2018, including the return of the FLY BROTHER RADIO SHOW, and much, much more! It’s time to get lifted even higher. Again, many, many thanks to those of you who have stuck with FLY BROTHER through thick and thin, thanks to those of you just joining me on the journey, and, above all, infinite thanks to the universe for the duty to uplift, empower, encourage, enlighten, and inspire.

Let’s fly!

Featured image credit: Ankhbayar Tumurhuyag, Mongolia, 2017.

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This summer, Europe gets that much closer when Norwegian Air starts its new routes from the Northeastern U.S. on its brand-spanking-new Boeing 737-MAX jets, augmenting its already extensive 787 long-haul transatlantic service. The airline officially announced the routes in February, along with introductory fares as low as $65 each way—and you can still find some cheap tickets if your dates are flexible and you’re open to discovering a destination you hadn’t considered before.

Image by Eric Salard via Flickr.

In fact, by flying a smaller, more fuel-efficient airplane, Norwegian is connecting cities in the U.S. and Europe that had never, or very rarely, had transatlantic service up to now. Beginning in June, you can fly nonstop from Providence, Hartford, and New York’s Stewart International—about 60 miles north of Manhattan—to Cork, Shannon, and Dublin in Ireland, Belfast in Northern Ireland, Edinburgh in Scotland, and Bergen in Norway (above), all cities on the western edge of Europe and just barely longer than flights from the Northeast to Los Angeles. In fact, you can’t even fly nonstop from Providence to LA…but you can to Ireland!

Norwegian’s new 737-MAX transatlantic routes.

Check Norwegian’s website for fares and flight times, then off you fly!

Also, listen as Norwegian’s senior public relations manager Réal Hamilton-Romeo talks travel on the FLY BROTHER RADIO SHOW.

Bergen image by Andrés Nieto Porras via Flickr.

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In the filtered sunlight of the bus window, the little boy’s straight, yellow hair streamed from the top of his head like a sparkler. He peeked over at me, again, and this time, I gave him the most sour grimace I could muster. “What are you looking at?” I thought, again, but didn’t say because he was, after all, a child. But so was I, really: a 16-year-old spending the summer between his junior and senior years of high school in the northernmost province of Sweden, a hair south of the Arctic Circle.

I must have been the last foreign exchange student placed with a host family because, of all the American students placed in Sweden that summer, I was the farthest north and the furthest away from the capital city of Stockholm, where I had requested to be placed. The hamlet of Råneå was an hour outside of Luleå, itself not even topping 50,000 people and whose most famous export was ‘70s model and Bond girl Maud Adams. A bus that ran three or four times a day connected the town to the city, and neither town nor city was very racially diverse in 1994.

In fact, aside from a brown-skinned Sri Lankan girl adopted by Swedish parents in Råneå, it seemed I was the only other person of color in that section of the province, a flat, swampy expanse with Mesozoic-sized mosquitos and a sun that never set in summer. Not so very different from Florida, after all. The adults and other teenagers I was around—mostly, my host sisters’ friends—didn’t seem too scandalized by the skin tone difference: The Oprah Winfrey Show aired on Swedish television and two of the star players on Sweden’s World Cup soccer team were half-black.

But the little boy on the bus couldn’t stop looking. And finally, I stopped grimacing and smiled. He smiled, too, then I got off the bus.

 

Image by Daniel Glifberg via Flickr.

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Read Cash Money in Havana  — Part One.

The Malecón lines the northern shore of Havana, holding back the waters of the Florida Straits about as effectively as it holds back dreamers from taking to those waters in rickety vessels bound for the Sunshine State. Before night falls, families with children, elderly couples, and tourists stroll the promenade under the tropical sun. After dark, lovers—clandestine or otherwise—promise each other eternity or just one night in the shadows between each wave.

I wandered down into the sticky, salty air of the Malecón needing $60 to change my plane ticket and, as a writer, open to considering any and all possibilities. Amid the scores of lusty young men looking for release, I met a slim, sinewy, dark-skinned brother just a bit taller than me and wearing a black tank top and khaki shorts. We exchanged smiles and lingering eye contact, inching closer to one another with pleasantries in Spanish. But as the space between us narrowed, we both noticed a tall, pinkish older man with receding blond hair and swollen muscles squeezed into a tight German soccer jersey. He was looking at both of us with pointed interest, his nod conveying an unequivocal proposal of transactional sex. This was the standard arrangement between most foreigners and Cubans on the Malecón at night. I say most, because that was not the implied arrangement between the slim, sinewy, dark-skinned brother and me.

He looked at me with questioning eyebrows and a forward posture indicating that I should accompany him over to the pinkish German. I thought about the $60, the brother’s smile (and privates), the epic story that the scenario would make, and potentially great sex; the German wasn’t exactly bad-looking, just sunburned. In the end, though, my ingrained American prudery won out, and I slowly shook my head no. “Vayas, tú.”

“Okey,” he said, “gracias.” He put his hand around my waist and pulled me closer, his lips brushing against my neck just below the ear. He slowly, slowly dragged his hand across my lower back as we unfurled, then winked and smiled before walking over to the German. I turned back towards town and my casa particular, knowing that I needed to wake up early if I hoped to sell anything for cash down at the souvenir market.

 

Image by truebacarlos via Flickr.

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Once, I ran out of money in Cuba. It was 2009, and I had returned to Havana after two previous trips with the purpose of experiencing the place before Fidel Castro officially kicked the bucket and KFC brought in theirs. Alas, I had miscalculated my finances, as friends and family can attest that I am wont to do, but decided to go on the trip anyway, as I am also wont to do.

Five days into my eleven-day sojourn in Cuba’s crumbling, captivating capital city, I found myself with less than $10 and no way to borrow money from the U.S., with the embargo and all. I had paid up for the next few nights at my casa particular, so I at least had lodging for a couple of days, and my Cuban friends would make sure I was properly fed and had some floor space somewhere, should it come down to that. I knew that, in Cuba of all places, I’d be all right. But I would still need cash.

I went to the Cubana office to talk with a ticket agent about taking an earlier flight back to Bogotá, where I was living at the time. The agent said it would cost me $60: a $50 change fee and a $10 typing fee. I was not mad at her hustle in the least; in fact, I appreciated her directness.

The task, then, was to figure out how I could earn the money. Previously, I’d brought basic goods—tube socks, deodorant, toothpaste, cans of chunk light tuna, packets of hair weave—to barter in exchange for Cuban souvenirs. This time, I only had the clothes I brought with me to wear, a clunky digital camera, my early-model laptop, and zero interest in or need for specially carved maracas or a linen guayabera.

I only had two places to find cash money in Havana: the souvenir market near the cruise ship terminal during the day, and the seafront promenade called the Malecón at night.

To be continued…

 

Read about my previous experiences in Cuba here.
Image by helenedancer via Flickr.

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Bryan Sereny/Flickr

Did you know that only 28% of Greater Miami’s residents speak English at home? Miami being a Spanish-speaking city isn’t just a myth. Everyone jokes about needing a passport to visit Miami and that the city’s first language is Spanish. But it’s not just a joke; in Miami, more people speak Spanish than English. According to data compiled in 2010 by the Modern Language Association, of Miami-Dade County, Florida’s 2.3 million residents over the age of five, only 28% – around 644,000 – speak English as a first language at home. Spanish ranks Number One, at 1.5 million speakers, or roughly 64% of the overall population of the county (over five years of age, that is). Haitian Creole, Haiti’s official language along with French, comes in third at almost 97,000 speakers, or a scant 4.2% of the over-five population, while French and Portuguese round out the top five, with less than 1% each.

Reflecting the demographic make-up of the region, Miami-Dade County has three official languages – English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole – in which all county documentation, from voting registration forms to court summons to school board notices, must be printed. While more obvious reasons for the shifting of Miami’s primary language from English to Spanish over the second half of the 20th century and into the 21st include economic and political instability throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, many of the people who lamenting the decline of English forget that the name Florida itself is a Spanish word meaning “florid” or “flowery.” That’s not all; the name Miami is derived from that of the Mayaimi Indians who lived around nearby Lake Okeechobee when the Europeans first arrived. The Mayaimi’s linguistic cousins, the Tequestas, lived in what is now Miami and they didn’t speak English at home either.

That said, add a little bit of instrumentation to all these languages and you’ve got the incredible mash-up of the Miami music scene. Salsa, samba, soca, and every riddim in between thumps out of open car windows and on nightclub dance floors. So while you may have to speak Spanish to that gas station attendant (diez en la doce means “$10 on pump 12”), you’ll also get to work on your reggaeton moves as you pump.

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Read Part One here.

The crack of dawn occurred after Rogue Priest, Pixi, and I had woken up and took to the road in search of breakfast. The Hotel La Turbina advertised a restaurant that didn’t actually exist, and, Sabinas Hidalgo being a relatively small town, most eating places didn’t open on Sundays until seven (in principle), but not really until about 7:15 or 7:30 (in practice). For the second time on the trip, we ended up at a restaurant with a severe dearth of cars in the parking lot. This time, though, we were on the town’s main drag and didn’t expect to have our pictures on milk cartons this time.

The Restaurant Acira (all restaurants in northern Mexico seemed to use the English version of the word, though they still seemed to pronounce it restaurante. I guess dropping the final “e” lent a place a certain je ne sais quois) served up traditional Mexican breakfasts in what was, if you bothered to look past its crusted-over, forlorn ambience, a surprisingly attractive, mid-century Modern roadside diner. The parking lot’s rusty awning probably shielded snazzy drive-in customers from the fierce Mexican sun when served in their 1955 Chevy Bel Airs. Along the northern wall glittered a giant, intricate tile mosaic depicting cows and cowboys locked in their historic and essential wrangle. The restaurant’s Jetsons-style sign, in desert pastels, perched almost demurely at the edge of the parking lot and, like most of the other impressive design elements of the place, outshined by gaudy, artless kitsch, required keen eyes to appreciate. Even the waiter had a classic air about him, with his elegant mustache and diction, that seemed to belong to an era of service long dead and buried. And the breakfast was pretty good, too.

After filling our bellies, Rogue, Pixi, and I stocked up on provisions and hit the road, saying our private goodbyes to lovely Sabinas Hidalgo as we passed tree-shaded yards and whitewashed houses en route to the verdant hills ahead of us.

As the arid carpet of northern Mexico unrolled ahead of us, we continued adelante, emboldened by the previous day’s triumph of reaching our first stopping point without incident. Rogue and Pixi biked briskly, maintaining a steady pace as the sun, and the land itself it seemed, rose steadily higher.

It was here, in the midst of the fluttering Monarch butterflies, bright yellow wildflowers, and sturdy cacti that lined our route, that I soon began to ponder my own path. Where, indeed, was I going to?

The previous few months had meant leaving my teaching job and apartment in Miami to focus on my PhD, my writing, and my relationship in Germany. The relationship—five years and almost married—ended suddenly, but not without good reason, just as I’d visited South Africa for the first time on a press trip that I’d put off for two years. And now, here I was: traipsing through Mexico with only a few freelancing gigs and my part-time airline job for money, my doctoral studies on indefinite pause, the solid relationship I had counted on no longer in existence, and an intense and unexpected romance in South Africa suddenly interrupted by fear and uncertainty.

To be honest, for the past several weeks, I’d been struggling greatly with all the great existential issues that plague the aimlessly intellectual and creative: why am I here? For what purpose? What is happening to me? Why didn’t my relationship work out? Why isn’t this new one working out? Why isn’t the love of my family and friends enough? Why is my bank account perpetually empty? What happens now? Where am I going to? Where am I going to?

And as I tossed these things about in my head, silently rejoicing about the awesomeness of the trip but a bit more loudly despairing of my life situation at that moment, I heard Janelle Monae sing: “To be victorious, you must find glory in the little things.”

And this refrain, undergirded by the gentle yet unrelenting reminders of numerous friends, family members, the universe really, of how wonderful and one-of-a-kind every single moment of my life was, took on a greater significance.

How many other people had the time and ability to fly down to Mexico and help a good friend realize his life goal? Or help a new friend realize how far beyond her limits she could push herself? How many other people were freezing up in colder climes while I was able to drive through some of God’s most thrilling countryside ‘neath nuclear skies, where most people don’t even fly over, let alone experience by land? And despite my physical remoteness, I was still in contact with my familiars around the world—in Brazil and Sweden and the US and South Africa—checking in on me, thinking about me, praying for me, loving me. All these little things.

“To be victorious, you must find glory in the little things.”

There is more to the story. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving.

Snaps from the road:

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Select sounds from Day Two: