Vero Beach Florida is more than just a beach city. Though well-known for its beach hot spots and tourist attractions, the city also values art. Indeed, Vero Beach can be considered as an artist's haven. Vero Beach's fame for offering the good life is owed greatly to the integration of a tropical atmosphere and the cosmopolitanism of a cultured city. Hence, it was named as one of the premier art towns of America.The city exudes cultural wealth. The arts center which costs over $2 million dollars is declared the largest teaching facility and art museum in Florida. "Vero Beach Florida" 's 630-seat Riverside Theater is located on Treasure Coast. Aside from being Treasure Coast's signature professional theater, the venue is also known for staging expensive and world class productions. The art culture started in Vero Beach since the early 20th century when artists, poets, artisans, and actors found their place and settled in the city. The botanical jungle garden was considered as a landmark in landscaping and was built and opened to the public in the 1930's by Waldo Sexton and Arthur McKee. Vero Beach's theater guild held their first presentation in 1958 and Riverside Theater followed suit in 1974. But don't get the impression that Vero beach caters only to theater or design artists, because in 1966, Vero Beach formed its own concert association. As mark of the citizens commitment to art, they raised and built a children's theater named after Anne Morton. As further proof to their value for art, most of these institutions were built by private donations with assistance from Vero Beach's local government.Perhaps, it is the beauty of their own land that inspire Vero Beach's residents to create so much beauty of their own. After all, Vero Beach Florida is blessed with semi-tropical weather. This makes Vero Beach a suitable place for a variety of flora including tropical trees and even pines which normally thrive on colder regions. There are also extensive citrus orchards and national parks in and around Vero Beach. Flowers rage in Vero Beach, and since this is a beach place, towering palms dot the landscape. Surely, natural beauties such as these are enough to inspire anybody. However, if you're not the artsy type of person, there are still lots of things to do and appreciate in Vero Beach. It is after all, the Dodgers' home, and considered as one of the top diving and surfing spots in Florida.
On my recent trip to Cambodia I was blessed to spend three days exploring the ruins collectively known as Angkor Wat. We experienced sunrise and sunset, as well as the noonday heat, in this magnificent complex of temples, many built more than 900 years ago.
Relics of Past Splendor
These shrines were created with stones carried from far away; many were built without mortar, and all were built without modern technology. Yet the structures have withstood the ravages not only of time and weather, but also of mankind. Over the centuries temple figures sacred to one religion (Buddhism) have been removed or destroyed by followers of another religion (Hinduism), only to be replaced by the original worshipers (Buddhists). Just as destructive were souvenir hunters who have taken pieces from the carvings and sold them to collectors and museums. Lastly, bullet holes and bomb damage mar many of the temple walls a legacy of the Khmer Rouge.
Like the pyramids in Egypt and the Mayan ruins in Central America, Angkor Wat is the relic of an ancient civilization that was far advanced for its time. Today many of the Angkor Wat temples are still in daily use. I saw monks and worshipers kneeling in the temples, burning incense and praying. Truly a profound experience.
Emblems of Today's Squalor
In contrast, on my last evening in Cambodia, I took a boat ride through Chong Khneas, a floating fishing village. This loose collection of more than 700 families of fishermen and a complete support community live on boats and travel Tonl Sap Lake following the fish and the rainy season.To reach the floating village we drove through the town of Siem Reap and several smaller villages. The further from Siem Reap we traveled, the more primitive living conditions became. Homes went from cinder-block and concrete structures to wooden houses to one-room bamboo shacks supported on spindly bamboo poles to protect them from flooding. I would have been afraid to roll over in my sleep in these houses, much less raise a family or ride out a monsoon in one. Electricity was nonexistent, and the only running water was the stream we were following to the lake. The only nod to the 21st century was televisions, running on car batteries and prominently displayed in the glassless windows.
The floating village consisted of hundreds of boats, some no bigger than 20 feet by 6 feet. Entire families lived on each boat. Cages suspended underneath the boat served as impromptu fish farms. The back of the boat held a primitive outhouse. Children bathed in the lake while old women cleaned fish or cooked noodles in water dipped from the same source. The lake served not only a source of food and of cooking and drinking water, but as a bathtub and septic system as well. Here the ubiquitous televisions, and the outboard motors used to power the fishing boats onto the lake each evening, were the only lifestyle changes in the last 200 years.
The floating village and the bamboo shacks were light years below the standard of living enjoyed by the Cambodians who designed and lived in the temple complex at Angor Wat 900 years ago. All of those past splendors seem lost today.
The Lessons of Forgetfulness
What caused such an advanced civilization to revert to a shadow of its former self? And what lesson can we learn from this study in contrasts? To paraphrase George Santayana's famous line, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to forget it." Somehow the people of that floating village have forgotten the grandeur of Cambodia's past. They have lost touch with the creativity and spirit that made Angkor Wat possible. Instead of moving forward, they either stayed the same or moved backwards and perhaps that amounts to the same thing. Once we cease to learn, build, create and stretch, we not only stop gaining or growing, we allow the rest of the world to pass us by. This is the equivalent of moving backwards.
We must ask ourselves each day, "Am I moving forward or simply standing still?" In our lives and at our work we all know people who refuse to change with the times. To our computer-savvy children watching us struggle to retrieve our email, we may look like slow-moving dinosaurs. We cannot afford the luxury of standing still. To do so allows the world to move past us. More importantly from a business standpoint, it allows our competition to move easily past us.
Do you risk becoming a relic of the past or a dinosaur whose fate is extinction? If you have any amount of doubt coursing through your veins, commit today to education, growth and constant improvement, both personal and professional. And know that if up until now you've been a bit lax, you're never too old or too young to make this commitment to yourself. The lesson I learned in Cambodia is that I want to be the one who builds monuments for the future not the one who wonders how the monuments of the past were built.
Urban dwellers would normally prefer to rove around the metropolis and explore every side-street in search for ideal refuge, more than traveling to remote provinces. However, there are more than 7,000 reasons to explore the parameters of this archipelago, taking into account its profuse land and marine resources and myriad sanctuaries.Among the many interesting regions in the Philippines is the mountainous terrain and savanna in northern Luzon as inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Part of this region is Sagada. With a measly P2,500, a determined explorer can take a fulfilling jaunt to Sagadaa serene mountain community in Mt. Province. The adventurous travelers would customarily take the 10-hour bus ride from Manila to Banaue, Ifugao (via Solano, Nueva Ecija route) that costs not more than P300.In Banaue, travelers have the option to take the day off and trek along the well-engineered Banaur Rice Terraces or take a jeepney ride to Bontoc and from there, one can catch a bus ride to a more tranquil region, Sagada in Mt. Province.Sagada has economical lodging houses and hotels to spend the night over. For as low as P200, a traveler can avail of a bedroom for two and a well-scrubbed common bathroom with sufficient amount of waterfor an overnight abode. Even though electricity and water are accessible in these highland regions, one of the guidelines in immersing to remote areas is not to expect for urban amenities.However, the lack of adequate necessities is not an hindrance to any devoted backpacker. Indeed, the remarkable view of the mountains, sight of abundant natural resources, and exposure to mountain community are enough reasons to enjoy the trip.Trekking along the narrow mountain trails of Batad and Bangaan Villages in Banaue is one of the many leisure options where panoramic views of the terraces can be enjoyed. To keep track of the trail, a number of villagers can be hired for hours as tour guides.The trip is truly breathtaking and for an amateur trekker, the long hours of walk should not impede them to reach the other side of the trail. There are a number of brooks along the curvy mountain range that are guaranteed to quench ones thirst during the hours of hike. Meanwhile, the awe-inspiring endpoint is an antidote to muscle pain.Batad is comparable to realizing the pot of gold at the other end of the rainbow. It boasts of scenic and unspoiled layers of rice fields forming a colossal amphitheater, where native Ifugaos mostly dwell. The terraces is still a functional source of livelihood and personal sustenance for Ifugaos, except for some where irrigation systems have been destroyed through seepage, landslides, prolonged drought, erosion, and other inevitable natural calamities.
This is a friendly cosmopolitan capital for all tastes. Everyone speaks English, its safe and Im told, the cleanest city in Europe. It is virtually graffiti free as I stroll the elegant Esplanade. This is the boulevard of trendy shops and cafes. The sidewalks are heated. So much culture here with 7 symphonic orchestras, opera house and a library on each corner. Fins are big on design and big names have left their distinctive mark around the world with cutting edge style.I am grateful to be here by invitation from the Finnish Tourist Board for a site inspection and travel conference. After hotel check in, I am given a private city tour by Irene, a local guide with sincere passion for her city. There are 560,000 inhabitants and 43% are single! What a venue for a creative AFS trip. Finland is 10% water with 187,000 lakes and 584 islands. This is a high tech capital of the world. Fins have an extreme appreciation for innovation and love their toys. Everyday tasks are preformed on their Nokia Imaging cell phones. With it they can buy a tram ticket, pay a parking fine or program their lights to turn on before they arrive home. This is also sauna world where nearly every house has an electric sauna. There are over 2 million and even some restaurants have them. Caf Tin Tango is a place where you can do your laundry, eat lunch and sip a beer in a sauna with locals discussing how to solve the worlds problems. The shopping is great for designer knitwear, jewelry and glassware. Although tax free, prices are high, yet I am told Oslo is far more expensive. At night locals fill clubs that provide some Nordic oddity like gay karaoke, sauna and ice bars.Sunday I fly the polar express 600 miles north to Roveneimi, gateway to Lapland and where the fun begins. People here ride bikes in the snow, swim in the ice holes and do artic picnics. The hottest activities happen in winter. Last month the city of 35,000 received 20,000 visitors. It is 2 Fahrenheit and considered exceptionally warmWe are a group of 22 tour operators from around the world and check into a cozy wilderness lodge. Each room has a private sauna. Dinner is presented in a rustic lodge lit with traditional candles muted lighting. Glow fried salmon was prepared over an open hearth along with wild mushroom soup and blackberry mousse. Afterward we gather to bake in a smoke wood sauna.Monday morning we are outfitted head to toe in Gortex artic suits for a full day snowmobile safari. We each mount our super Skidoos and head out to the forest. Across the lakes we reach speeds of 50mph! First stop is a husky farm with 200 dogs to greet us. Seven blue eyed huskies are chosen per sleigh for our dog sled adventure. The cacophony of yelping, howling and barking is near deafening as the dogs anxiously await their turn to run. So strong, so gentle and they love their work. Upon rope release, theyre off like a bullet and the journey is thrilling. We get to view 9 new puppies. After a thousand licks, I hate to leave. We stop at a farmhouse for a lunch of sauted reindeer, goat cheese potatoes and cranberry ice cream. Back on our snowmobiles, we traverse a snow covered paradise. We cross the Artic Circle, the most northern terrain of all my travels. Parallel with Siberia and just 40 miles to the Russian border, I want to defect but we soon stop at a reindeer farm to be greeted by costumed Lapp-lads. They perform the customary Lappish baptism and give us an official border certificate as well as a reindeer drivers license. We then enjoy a sleigh ride from the docile yet powerful deer. This is the land of the indigenous Sami. We learn of the fascinating culture of these semi-nomadic people who live on top of the world. Reindeer husbandry is the oldest livelihood. They possess a genuine love of this frozen land.We had 4 hours of daylight today. As I change back into my jeans, I recall that I was never cold, not even my toes. We motorcoach north to Luosto, a village of 40 residents and check into a beautiful ski resort. Outside on my balcony is a theatre of wilderness. The purity of nature is shown through a forest of birch trees backlit by the moon. The snow listens. White silence surrounds me. I am entranced by the tranquility. This is a romantic environment where all haste is forgotten. Simply put, it is spectacular. Here I wait. Here on earth, the Aurora Borealis presents its most amazing spectacle. Perhaps Ill get a glimpse. A peaceful sleep overcomes me after a totally exhilarating day. The next day we dine on a hearty breakfast of smoked fish and set out to tour the area. One resort has 310 log cabins each with a private sauna. We tour an amethyst mine, the largest working mine in Europe. With picks in hand, it was a treasure hunt to dig out the brightest purple gemstone. On to the tiny ski town of Pyha, where we lunch at the worlds largest log cabin. There is a snow chapel here entirely sculpted from snow and ice. Weddings are routinely performed. With ice pews, the sermons are short. Another highlight here was a visit to Santa Claus Village. I got to meet the real Santa. He lives here and is fluent in a dozen languages. His elves are busy in the post office answering the annual 40,000 letters from children around the world.Back at the airport, our plane lifts off a runway of solid ice. I will miss the polar darkness and yet long to return for a visit in the summer with its 24 hours of sunlight.The following days are productively spent at the travel trade show in contemporary Helsinki. I have learned so much of a land that exceeded my expectations. I never had a chance to overnight in the Ice Hotel of Kemi, ride the Sampo Ice Breaker or swim the Baltic Sea in a floating survival suit. But Im grateful for a taste of Lappish adventure. On my last night, a flickering of northern lights dance in the sky. Its a perfect scene to bid me farewell and is said to bring good luck. I hope good fortune will allow me the chance to share this adventure with a group soon. It is like no where else Ive been. Everyone should experience such a warm atmosphere in the heart in winter.
This amazing trip through the White Mountains of New Hampshire includes gorgeous views, a visit to the home of the world wind speed record, and one of most scenic train rides in the east. The White Mountain National Forest is a 4-hour drive north of Boston, Massachusetts. Deep in New Hampshire, the mountains are part of the Appalachian Mountain system that covers the Eastern United States. Within the forest park is the White Mountains Trail, and its a drive thats arguably the most scenic 100 miles in New England. Heres a selection of my favorite stops along the way - some of them require prior planning and are day trips in themselves.WHITE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL FOREST VISITOR CENTERMost people begin the drive from the White Mountains Visitor Center in North Woodstock on route 112 and head out on route 3N to the Franconia Notch area. If youre traveling with kids then youll want to pencil dates back in this area at the Clarks Trading Post, and The Whales Tale attractions -- both in Lincoln on route 3N. At Clarks you can see Bears, ride a steam train, climb towers, and generally keep the young ones happy. The Whales Tale is a water park with a wave pool, picnic areas, and live entertainment.Back on the road head north towards Franconia Notch, and shortly youll see the sign for our first stop - the Flume Gorge.THE FLUME GORGEThe Flume Gorge was formed over 200 million years ago when the White Mountains were molten rock. As the terrain here cooled quickly, softer material was forced into the fractures that formed. These fractures wore down with natural erosion much quicker that the surrounding granite rock -- leaving the gorge. And so now you get to enjoy a geological wonder at the base of beautiful Mount Liberty. The Gorge has a visitor center where your tour starts and ends, one of the oldest covered bridges on the White Mountains Trail, and some dramatic photo opportunities.Continue to head north on Route 3 until it joins Route 302 and follow 302 towards Bretton Woods. Here the mountains get taller and taller until eventually you see the grand daddy of them all -- Mount Washington at 6,288 feet.THE ROOF OF THE WHITE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL FOREST...Depending on time available, youve got three options for experiencing Mount Washington: take the Cog Railway train ride to the top, drive the auto road to the summit -- the quickest way, or you can hike if youre well prepared. But dont consider hiking to the top unless youre in great condition and with somebody. This mountain claims lives every year - even in the summer - as conditions in this area can deteriorate dramatically within minutes.And yes, its worth getting to the summit. On a clear day the view is stunning. Visit the museum at the top and learn about the day in 1934 when the highest wind speed ever recorded on earth was taken - 231 MPH. Youll learn why its unique geographic position provides the mountain with the worst weather on earth.Now get back onto Route 302 and head south to the town of North Conway.THE CONWAY SCENIC RAILROADSchedule at least enough time to take the shorter valley scenic train, which you board in North Conway. The train rides offer wonderful views of the scenic valleys and notches in the surrounding area. The valley train is a 55-minute roundtrip, and the Notch train is 5 hours. Both have a first-class car if you want to have a different experience. The notch train has a dome car as well, where you get magnificent views of the steep ravines and sheer bluffs. The trains usually run from mid-June until mid-October. THE KANCAMAGUS HIGHWAYLets finish up our White Mountains Trail tour by joining back up with route 112 at Conway and driving back to the White Mountain National Forest Visitor Center.Route 112, or as its better known the Kancamagus Highway, is the only road that runs directly east and west through the heart of the White Mountain National Forest. This is a dramatic road that shows off the magnificence of one of New Hampshires best-loved scenic spots. From this road your vistas include wilderness and the highest peaks in the presidential range.During the summer and fall foliage months youre likely to have plenty of company on your drive. But if the weather is clear who cares if the going is a little slow - this isnt a drive to rush anyway. But its a magnificent end to our 100-mile scenic drive.