I Heart Kansas

I Heart Kansas

Kansas is an underrated state. For those of us that have lived here all our lives, it can be difficult to see beauty in the rolling hills, abundant plains and open vistas. But, in those lands are symbols of America and our way of life out here in Kansas. The windmills of the past and toil of the farmers show our dedication and hard work, and the new, rather controversial ones show our (although this is questionable as of late – thanks, Brownback!) progressive attitude and embracement of new technology.

It took a number of year to see it myself, but I Heart Kansas!  I took this photo while on a photo adventure day with my good friend and mentor, Laura George (http://wherethegoldbeesdream.blogspot.com), a fellow native.  We had a great day together roaming the dirt back roads, spotting windmills, wildflowers and wildlife amidst our bursts of laughter and conversation.  I hope to share more photos as I go through them!


(The above photo, as with all original content on this site, is copyright and property of the owner, Luke A. Bunker, 2013.)

Review: Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door 2013: The Travel Skills Handbook

Rick Steves
Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door 2013: The Travel Skills Handbook by Rick Steves

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Europe Through the Back Door” contains excellent tips and advice presented in a logical fashion with funny, humorous anecdotes. An appendix with destination and idea suggestions is included. I always enjoy Rick’s writing, and this book has given me the confidence to investigate solo travel abroad.

View all my reviews

365 Travel Memories Project – 003/365

003/365 (January 3) – July 8, 2011

Another collage created with the amazing web app at http://pixlr.com/express/.
The day was July 8, 2011, and we began one of our most memorable days as a family in Fruita, Colorado, with our friends Les and Tyina (brother and sister; my dad worked with Tyina at the hospital).  We traveled via the Million Dollar Highway to an old mining town, Silverton, where we saw a horse-drawn carriage traipse across the small town and the famous Durango-Silverton train come to a graceful stop just feet away.
Tyina and Les asked if there was a place my mom wanted to shop (as if!!), and she mentioned a place that sold old Indian jewelry a friend had told her about.  She was beginning to leave the store after her purchase when she asked about the symbols on her ring, which the shop-owner had said was a sign for water.  Right then, she got the call from my brother, Josh, wondering what it was like for Mom when her water broke.  As has was telling her what Sheri was going through, Mom told them to head to the hospital because little Zoe, my niece, was on her way!
As you can imagine, we were all so excited and emotional when we heard the news.  I had a good feeling that our little one would be born later that day.  Being over 500 miles away was difficult because I wanted to be at least somewhat close when (who I now call) my little Zopapilla came into the world.
As we finished the day out, waiting to hear further news, we traveled to Animas Forks, where my dad caught up with my mom’s friends from Okeene’s daughter, Robin (tough to keep straight, but stay with me!) – what are the chances!?!  Animas Forks is a beautiful ghost town situated in the San Juan Mountains; it is truly one of the most beautiful places I have visited.  The flowers perked up for us and everything was in bloom and full of lush greens.  As we left Silverton and Animas, we got a text from Josh, “Labor is a go.  Your granddaughter will be here soon.  :)”  I was so excited, I could barely stand it!
After Animas, we took a photo op at the beautiful Molas Pass area, smiles beaming brightly on our faces.  Just minutes later, we saw a double rainbow near our favorite town of Ridgway and got the call that our Zoe was born.  Mom starting tearing up, of course, and it was a special moment to share it with some of our best friends.
What a special day!!!

365 Travel Memories Project – 002/365

002/365 (January 2) – June 5-6, 2012

It may qualify as my first real, in-depth conversation with a European couple.  En-route from Minneapolis to Amsterdam in Seat 31G (and, in true Delta style, an hour at the gate), Eduardo and I spoke with a wonderful older couple from Amsterdam, Hans and Colette.

Colette worked for an organization that researched and helped abuse victims, and you could tell within seconds that she was a kind, caring and compassionate woman, particularly when she got very serious and motherly, saying, “There are so many, and we have to help them.”
The couple was heading back home after a tour of the American Southwest, a popular circuit for Europeans traveling to the U.S.  They reflected with a laugh how, when in Las Vegas, they got lost at their mega-hotel and thought to themselves, “What is going on here?!?!”  Colette used the word “nice” a lot to describe not only her home country, but also America.
Hans was quieter, a retired gentleman, content to let his wife converse with Eduardo and me about our studies, schools, holidays, foods and each others’ travels.  It made me reflect in my journal that “only through travel do you really get a view and window into other ways of life.”
As the plane began to depart, our conversation dwindled with just a few moments of conversation later in the flight, interspersed with her confession for loving American TV, particularly “the HBO.”  As we got our Sudoku puzzles with dinner (Delta can be quite funny at times!!) and subsequently made a few mistakes, Colette (“the Dutch woman”) was happy to give us their extras.
During our descent into Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, Eduardo and I said our goodbyes to Colette and Hans, with Hans’ statement “You will be seeing old buildings!!” said with a big grin on his wrinkly, wise face, setting us up for our latest European adventures.  “Yes, we will!” I said in reply.  It was wonderful meeting the two of them, and it was the perfect exchange to start our European trip.

365 Travel Memories Project – 001/365

001/365 (January 1) – June 11, 2012

A few of us went to the market in Munich on a Monday morning, fresh off an early lunch at a delicious little restaurant and just around the corner from Munich’s famous square, Marienplatz. A few of us (my friend and fellow traveler, Hannah, comes to mind!) shopped around for berries and other market goodies before lunch, and then I decided to take another turn at it before we headed to Dachau, and later in the trip, our journey to other parts of Europe (needed road food, and something fresh!).
OK, background out of the way, I must tell you about our morning at the Munich market. A very nice guy, probably a bit older than me, helped me pick out some different fruits, from apples and grapes (didn’t care for them, they were a bit different!), and a unique, orange-lookalike fruit that was unique to Munich and in-season. He was very proud of his trade and it was fun to see him passionate about fruit. He also told me about his visit to America as we chatted for a little bit (believe it or not, Europeans don’t bite!!), pulled out his iPhone, and showed/told me about the white Mustang convertible he rented when touring in California. It is always compelling to me to converse with people I meet about their travels – I find it’s a great icebreaker to discuss travels to each others’ countries.
This came to mind today (Jan. 3), and inspired me to start this project! I’m sure not all of the posts will look as graphic-ized as this one, but I hope you enjoy it all the same!

New Life

New Life by Luke A. Bunker
New Life, a photo by Luke A. Bunker on Flickr.

I took this photo while visiting the concentration camp at Dachau (near Munich) in Germany this summer. This symbol of new life struck me, and I knew I wanted to capture it in a place where life seemed so distant and fleeting for so many.

I had been putting off processing and going through what I called “my Dachau pictures” because I knew I would need emotional energy to go through them. I ended up going through them this evening and found myself thinking one thing… How could we, as a world, have put up with this and let it go on for so long before doing something about it? Rather than sadness, I jumped straight to anger, which I suppose is natural. But, are we not doing the same thing today with respect to Darfur and other regions where governments are essentially exterminating their peoples?

Food for thought…

"Authentic German Potato Salad"

Tomorrow night, we will be having our Bon Voyage party for the upcoming trip – which also marks that we have only one week before we’re off on a too-long flight bound for Berlin!  For this party, we were encouraged to bring a dish that could possibly be served in one of the countries we are visiting (meaning Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Lichtenstein, Switzerland or France).  I must admit that when I first read this, I googled “easy German recipes” and was like, “There is NO way this is going to happen!”  I soon contemplated heading to Walmart or Kroger for a quick fix.  However, I thought some more (and Mom – who hardly ever lets me cook because I “dirty too many dishes!!”- is out of town, so when the cat’s away, the mice will play!!) and thought I would try my hand at…

Authentic German Potato Salad

Link to Recipe on AllRecipes – Thanks, SCHOOLBEE123!!
Since I don’t know the etiquette of blogging recipes if it’s not your own creation, I’ll just include some pictures (taken with my iPad and not the best – I was cooking, what can I say…) and hopefully you can get an idea of the sweet  (literally; however, I substituted Truvia in for the sugar), heavenly, and flavorful/aromatic stuff that this is!  I haven’t edited them or anything as I am in the mood to post at 11:48 at night before potentially the longest week of the summer and didn’t want to let that mood pass – so don’t judge!
I made a smaller batch first because I wasn’t sure if it would taste good, and since it’s a potluck, I didn’t think I needed to bring much.  However, I did end up liking it quite a bit and ran to the store to get provisions for a second (yet mushier) batch so I could share with family and a friend/coworker who I talked to about this adventure.
Semi-conclusion:  I haven’t had a lot of German food, even though I am part German on my mother’s side, but if the rest of their food is like this, they have a new fan – and a very curious one at that – to try more in its native land.
Las papas are resting until they are called on for action… Which will be soon! 
Why, hello, Bacon! As far as I know (morning will tell),I only splattered once, and not even on my clothes!!
Only one small finger burn, but it doesn’t hurt yet, which
I’ll take as a good sign. 
Yes, bacon deserves two pictures.  YUM!
Onions swimming in bacon grease??  Yeah, I suppose
I can handle that.  🙂
The finishing part of the first batch when everything
comes together for a little part. This was the first batch.
Second Batch – all done! Now, to cool down, throw in the fridge
so it can do it’s dancing all night long for the awaiting beasts
(OK, fellow party guests) tomorrow night!   This house

has NEVER smelled so good.

So, you’re probably wondering why this potato salad is such a big deal and why I took pictures of it…  Is it incredibly hard to make???  Well, not so much.  BUT, it is (to my recollection) the only dish I have created from a recipe that I didn’t just throw together or learn how to make from watching my mom cook.  And I did it all by myself.  I’m pretty proud of my efforts and even washed the dishes after I was done.  Mom will be proud, too.  🙂
Gut essen und “Bon voyage!!”

Making trip goals has many benefits

The night before my first trip to Europe last summer, I was sitting alone in my hotel room after a great dinner with friends who were going on the trip with me when I decided to get started writing in my journal.  (It should be mentioned that although I love almost all aspects of traveling, being alone in a hotel room is not one of those; you feel unsafe and totally alone!)
After summing up “Day One” of travel – which was really just getting from Dodge to Wichita and all that jazz! – I came up with a list of goals for my trip.  I plan to use this list and revisit it each time I get ready to go on a world adventure.  Perhaps I will add more specific things I want to get out of each specific trip in the future.
Without further ado, here’s the list, with explanations below:
  • Find the best in others. * This was big to me.  I knew I was going to be traveling a with a diverse group of people (around 50 people of all ages and every other qualifier), including some I didn’t think I would enjoy traveling with.  However, by opening up my mind and heart to these people, I was able to more fully enjoy the experience and become good friends with some of those very people.
  • Take advantage of as many opportunities as possible – live it up!  * I always knew that I would go to Europe more than once, but I also knew that I wanted to minimize or completely eliminate any chances of regretting something…  And what better way to make sure you don’t have regrets than by doing something if you had any inkling whatsoever and had the time to do it?!
  • Be safe and think smart. * Unlike so many travelers, I really don’t spend a lot of time overthinking being safe.  As a rule, I know that Europe is probably safer than your average large American city.  And when you’re constantly looking over your shoulder, you call more attention to yourself.  That being said, I always keep an eye on my surroundings but wasn’t going to let worry and stress take over my trip.  As long as I have my money belt/neck pouch/whatever, the rest is trivia and can be replaced (but they better not take my damn camera!).
  • Have a good time but know when it’s time to hit the bed, because sleep is an important part of any trip. * Obviously, I wanted to do as much as I could in the short amount of time we were in Europe, but if you’re not awake the next day, what good is staying up late?  This gets compounded when you have fun roommates who like to talk, but one must know when to get to bed!
  • Help others if you have the know-how, and accept it if you don’t. * I consider myself a pretty good and experienced traveler (“This ain’t my first ro-de-o!”) who knows when one should and should not do things, and I wanted to help others like people had helped me before (stay on the right side of escalators, how to navigate airports and subways, that kind of thing), but I also needed to realize that I don’t know everything.  (Sometimes this is tough!)  I didn’t want to look like I was being a total know-it-all!  🙂
  • Keep the trip in God’s hands. * I know from previous posts it sounds like I don’t believe in God, but I believe I do (the whole organized religion thing is what convolutes it all, IMHO), and it doesn’t hurt to let someone else look on over it.  🙂
  • Have fun! * Yes, I wanted to learn and all that on this trip, but what good is a trip or vacation if it’s not fun?!  On this same note, I wanted to learn more about myself and feel that I did.
  • Write in journal everyday, regardless! * Yeah…  Uhm-hmm!!  I got through the first day in Paris, but I’ll have to rely on pictures and memories for the rest.  I will definitely keep a better journal and paste in postcards, tickets, stamps, etc. in my journal next time.  I tend to keep receipts and all that, but they end up getting thrown in a bag or box and nothing is done with them.  Pasting them in each day on that day will help a lot and will remind me of the small things!
  • Take everything in stride – if something doesn’t happen, it wasn’t meant to happen ; if it does, then it was. * Absolutely my biggest travel “thing.”  Years of disappointment over not being able to do certain things while traveling led me to this philosophy, and I honestly haven’t looked back since (except for now as I reflect!).
  • Have a fabulous time and stay in touch via email! + Stay on Facebook and phone only a few minutes a day – you are in Europe for God’s sake! * I told my family I wouldn’t call them and would only contact them via email if I had a few free minutes during the trip, and I stuck by this.  And since I didn’t have Wi-Fi or data for a good portion of the trip, I only posted on FB a couple of times.  When I’m on the road (at least in Europe), I’m on the road and just don’t think of home very much. (This sounds cold, but it is the best way to do it…  People spend way too much time away from their destination when they are on the phone or on the computer or constantly thinking about home; a little bit is fine.)
  • HAVE NO REGRETS. * See above.
  • Try new foods. * You know me!  When in Rome, do as the Romans do!  (Unfortunately, I haven’t – yet! – experienced this in that place.)
  • Love others and love yourself. * Why the heck not?!
Having these goals in mind kept my priorities straight on this trip and was a wonderful guide when I started creeping into negativity.  I would recommend making a list of goals like this before any major trip – it helps a lot!

Paris, je t’aime…

Paris, je t'aime... by Luke A. Bunker
Paris, je t’aime…, a photo by Luke A. Bunker on Flickr.

I miss Paris so much and can’t wait to go back. I reflected in detail in writing for the first time for an essay and have really been feeling the travel bug! 🙂 Yes, the essay will of course be shared soon once it has been edited/revised!

Via Flickr:
It’s true! This is the Eiffel Tower and Parisian buildings as viewed from L’Arc de Triomphe.