Sandy Hook Shootings: One Family's Grief

The schoolhouse murder of 28 people in Connecticut in 2012 was impossible for me to grasp. Twenty were children. I could only document the tragedy through one family's grief. At the time, we didn't know the names or what terrible news they've just heard. Now, we know they are Gracie McDonnell's parents. She was in second grade. Through tweets and images, I've documented her parent's struggle to bear the unbearable. 
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Wildebeest Migration Across Kenya's Mara River

Am I bummed because my Africa trip fell through this year? Yes. Am I dreaming about next year? Yes. Let's fly off to Kenya now to watch the awesome wildebeest migration across the Mara River, a yearly spectacle, one of the wonders of the world.
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Hurricane Sandy 24/7 Slideshow

By Candace Dempsey
Get Hurricane Sandy's most exciting photos, tweets and videos as they come in. I'm updating around the clock. If you need shelter: text SHELTER and the local ZIP code to 43362, to FEMA.
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1 City, 1 Year, No Return: Your Choice?

Quora: Read Candace Dempsey's  answer to: "If you could live in any city in the world for the next twelve months, but then never go back to that city again, which one would you choose? " Readers: Yes, I chose Istanbul, Turkey.  Palermo, Sicily would be a close second. Both chaotic, ancient, unknowable places. A lifetime would not be enough. See what other people chose on Quora, one of my favorite sites on the Internet. 
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Escape to Tent Rocks in New Mexico

Have only a little time in New Mexico? The fantastical hoodoos of Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument are just an hour's drive from Albuquerque. On the easy hike up, I saw everything from a slot canyon and a cave that sheltered Native Americans to a glorious panoramic view
Tent Rocks Nat'l Monu Canyon in New Mexico

If you're in New Mexico in early November, as I was, you can also experience Day of the Dead, with everything from parades to feasts and memory boxes. I spotted this shrine from the road and just had to snap it. Eeek.

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Seven Years Before the Mast In a Teensy Boat

You'd have to be a little crazy to climb aboard a 31-foot boat with Wendy Hinman and her husband Garth and sail 34,000 miles, sans their saltwater addiction, nautical skills, and crazy optimism.  Qualities that make them ideal traveling companions for armchair sailors, who'll cruise through Wendy's memoir, Tightwads on the Loose, A Seven Year Pacific Odyssey, wishing it would never end.

Never waiting for the perfect wave or boat, this intrepid couple cruised across the Pacific, from Seattle and back, in a gossamer contraption they christened Velella.  "We learned that a sense of humor and teamwork are what matter most," says Wendy, temporarily anchored in the Emerald City. "I also learned I could do things one step at a time. Amazing things I never thought I could."

Even when they are about to be swept away by typhoons, you root for Garth and Wendy to keep on trucking. I worried at one point that they would be sensible and not sail to Japan, but I should have known better. Their passion for adventure and love of freedom push them across the globe.

What's up next? They've purchased a 1920s farmhouse with lots of room for Garth, a naval architect, to build them a dream boat. Yes, they've parted with Velella. When the new craft is shipshape, they'll set off for Patagonia and Europe.  Wendy talks about their adventures below.

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Yellowstone, Mio Amore (video)

I grew up in Spokane, Washington, a landlocked western town next door to Idaho. I left it for the very first time when I landed a summer job in Yellowstone National Park, aboard an eastbound train. I've been wandering ever since.

I love Ordinary Traveler's time-lapse Yellowstone video. Have trouble loading it? Try vimeo.

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Don't Be Chicken: All Aboard a Guatemala Bus

 By Candace Dempsey, author of Murder In Italy, true story of Amanda Knox.

Whilst plotting my next African adventure, I came across this fabulous chicken bus video, reminding me of my happy time in Guatemala. Andrew Evans, of National Geographic Traveler, is one of my favorite bloggers. Here's his Bus2Antarctica Video aboard a magic bus on mountain roads. P.S. Wouldn't mind hitchhiking through Central America.
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Seven Dead on Mt. Everest

Seven Dead on Mount Everest? I grieve for the climbers who died on Mt. Everest this weekend, including a beautiful graduate student from Nepal whose supporters were following her on Facebook. But I understand what makes people yearn to stand on top of that mighty mountain. Sometimes bad luck is what separates disaster from triumph. We have the right to try. R.I.P. Do you agree that death is part of the thrill of Everest? 

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Game of Thrones: Out of Iceland (Video)

I've been dreaming of Iceland for many years. Game of Thrones , my new addiction, even has Icelandic horses. Click on the video to see them in Jon Snow's icy scenes.

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I Klimpted Marilyn Monroe

Wracked with wanderlust, I discovered the fabulous Austrian artist Gustave Klimt, famous for intertwined mermaids and women stamped in gold, would've been 105 this year. (Updated: See Klimt's bio, an exhibition schedule and 80 of his luscious paintings at Artsy.)

Catch a Klimt traveling exhibit this year in Venice, Milan, and Florence to celebrate his 105th birthday. Not "The Kiss," one of Vienna's major tourist attractions, but also jewels and furnishings from the fin de siecle, end of 19th century.

If you miss the Italian shows, no worries, this loot will return to Vienna. Meanwhile, Klimt yourself to cure your wanderlust.
Vienna waits for you.
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Sicily's Musem of the Dead

Next time you're in Palermo, Sicily, don't miss Catacombs of the Cappuccini monks, one of the world's most macabre tourist attractions.

"Originally the catacombs were intended only for the dead friars," says Wikipedia.  "However, in the following centuries it became a status symbol to be entombed into the Capuchin catacombs. In their wills, local luminaries would ask to be preserved in certain clothes, or even to have their clothes changed at regular intervals. Priests wore their clerical vestments, others were clothed according to the contemporary fashion. Relatives would visit to pray for the deceased and also to maintain the body in presentable condition."

By Candace Dempsey, author of Murder in Italy, the true story of Amanda Knox
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Jerusalem's Wailing Wall: You Are There

I fell in love with the time-lapse videos of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem (below) the second I saw them. They're by the talented blogger and crazy busy traveler Michael Hodson of Go, See, Write.

Next year, in Jerusalem.

I've been dreaming of that ever  since I went to Jordan a couple weeks after the end of the first Gulf War. One night a friend and I sat in a little outdoor bar in Aquaba, mesmerized by the lights of Israel, shining at us from across the Red Sea. The watery gap between the two countries is so small that a royal horse once swam across it.

Alas, unlike Moses we couldn't part the Red Sea and get across. We had only a few days left in Jordan, so we headed for glorious Wadi Rum ... But that's another story.

Michael is holed up in a Jerusalem hotel and updating the photos as we speak. Enter a Jerusalem neighborhood here.

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Gauguin: What was he looking for?

Tahitian Woman With a Flower (Vahine no te Tiare: 1891) is the first painting that the infamous French painter Paul Gauguin sent out from Tahiti, where he'd hoped to find a new home. It was his letter to the world.

The world, it turns out, did not care. Many years flipped by before this stunning portrait found a buyer.

But we do care, hundreds of years later, about this young woman, her black hair caught in a single braid. She holds an orange flower, stares off into the distance, chaste in a blue smock dress with white lace collar and cuffs. The artist said she was not beautiful, but was beautiful in her strength. 

I feel so lucky because this week I got to see "Gauguin and Polynesia: Elusive Paradise" at the Seattle Art Museum.  

I've visited the Gauguin museum in Tahiti, a dreary place, with nothing to show but copies of paintings long since snapped up by European buyers. The artist himself died penniless, but his canvases are now worth millions. Such is the fate of the avant-garde.

Seattle is the show's only stop in the U.S. and it would be worth the airfare just to see 60 examples of Gaugin's work, including sculptures, wood-carvings, self-portraits, and even sketchbooks. You can also see many charming examples of the Polynesian art that influenced him, as did the people. Even the bodies of the warriors, tattooed from head to foot, were works of art.

Like so many of us, Gauguin was plagued with wanderlust. An addiction in conflict with the desire to create something lasting, to be somebody in the world. He was always looking for "something real," but when he found it, he quickly grew tired.

For a woman it's hard not to see his portrayals of beautiful young girls as exploitative, hard not to view his bedding of them without "ambivalence and resentment" (an observation I overheard a woman make in the museum). And yet, he never portrayed Polynesian women as mere sex objects. Just look into their eyes, the sadness around their mouths. Observe their staid cotten clothes, the result of colonization. Did he ever paint a woman who smiled?

But it's not the sadness that's stayed with me all week, after seeing this spectacular show. No, it's the gorgeous colors, the once-in-a-lifetime brushstrokes, the marvelous carvings and sheer talent.
Who knew Gauguin so yearned for European flowers (marigolds, irises, lilies) that he planted a garden in Tahiti? Or that he always intended to reunite with his family, the one he abandoned in France to chase a Polynesian dream?

How I'd love to own my favorite Gauguin landscape, Parahi te Marae (The Sacred Mountain), 1892, which I posted above. The show will be at SAM until April 29, 2012. Don't miss it.

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Where Are the Coldest Places on Earth?

If you really want to get away from it all, check out Lonely Planet's Coldest Places on Earth. Can you guess what they are? Brrr. Call me crazy, but I fell in love with this description of the Dempster Highway in Canada, which crosses the Arctic circle:

Starting from Dawson, the last remnant of the Yukon gold rush, the Dempster winds its way through pristine wilderness flanked by craggy peaks and rolling tundra before arriving at the Arctic hub of Inuvik, gateway to the remote communities of the Western Arctic. One of the most incredible road trips on earth, the Dempster Hwy is one of only two roads in North America that cross the Arctic Circle. It’s a road deep in history, with stunning scenery and myriad chances to see wildlife. You may catch sight of moose, and wolves as well as peregrine falcons, golden eagles, and Arctic terns, all without leaving the road.

Also check out Grethel Erlich's beautifully named This Cold Heaven, a harrowing journey through Greenland.
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Escape from Italy's Titanic (Video)

The strange case of the Costa Concordia crash off the coast of Italy has haunted me all week. This is the world's worst cruise ship crash in modern times. The captain jumped ship, leaving passengers to get to shore as best they could. Here you can hear him refusing to go back and look for survivors.

Much larger than the Titanic, carrying many more passengers (4,000), the Concordia is the biggest cruise ship to ever crash. From the shore, it looks like a very big skyscraper.

The captain jumped ship, claiming he fell into the lifeboat (somehow with his top two officers aboard), but the crew mutinied in order to help the passengers. The captain refused to return to the ship even to assist rescuers by assessing the damage. 

I am fascinated by the stories of the survivors, caught here on film.
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Around the World In A Single Video

If this video doesn't feed your wanderlust, nothing will. I have been to many of these places and long to see them all. What's on your bucket list this year?

Time is Nothing // Around The World Time Lapse from Kien Lam on Vimeo.
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